Thursday, March 27, 2014


With the next two display cases in the Baseball Reliquary's "Purpose Pitch" exhibition, showcasing what we've earlier described as their symbiotic simpatico with Japanese-American artist Ben Sakoguchi, we reach the portion of works that commemorate the Reliquary's singular incursion into the metaphysics of meritocracy--their unique recasting of the Hall of Fame which is otherwise known as "The Shrine of the Eternals."

We've written about this at length elsewhere, so we're not going to retrace our steps at the moment; this series is meant to showcase Ben's art. Not all of the individuals elected to the Shrine have corresponding portraits in Ben's Unauthorized History of Baseball, but many do, and most of these are among the most inspired and whimiscal creations in the entire series.

And what better place to start than with Bill "Spaceman" Lee, the ultimate incarnation of an enduring baseball archetype: the surreal southpaw. Lee's powers of articulation clearly, er, rocketed him past the previous terminology used to describe the unbuttoned lefty: while he is occasionally dizzy and quite intentionally daffy, the range of quotes attributed to him both during and after his playing days indicate that he is only a distant relation to his more mentally challenged antecedents.

Lee was a natural for the Shrine of the Eternals; he was one of the first 50 candidates for induction in 1999, and was elected in 2000 with 53% of the vote, a percentage that remains tied for the highest mandate ever among Reliquary voters (Buck O'Neil matched that percentage when he was elected in 2008).

And, as is clearly visible, Lee is a subject tailor-made for Ben Sakoguchi. Clearly inspired by the early whimsy of the Reliquary in its young, coltish days, Ben lays out some carefully choreographed astral anarchy, embodying two types of separate but equal saturnalia as what might best be termed as "orbital matter" (not quite to scale, of course) and provides us with a cameo appearance from a beamed-up Eddie Gaedel, who is almost certain to take as big a cut at Bill's "spaceball" as he can, with no earthbound coaching staff to constrain him.

More facts about Bill Lee can be found at his Wikipedia entry. He's managed to make a solid cottage industry out of his doubled left-leaning, and while he's grown older (and who hasn't?) he's been able to retain a unique zest for life that will continue to sustain him as he continues his asynchronous orbit around the windmills of our minds.

Place name check: Ben's love for California's unincorporated areas continues: Leesville is a dust speck about forty miles northeast of Clear Lake, situated on ridgeland adjacent to the upper Sacramento River valley. It last had a post office during the tail end of the Woodrow Wilson administration.