Daily Sports Smile: Fans go 'bananas' for pitcher Bill Lee, 75, and Savannah-based Premier Team

The Savannah Bananas Premier Team's 75-year-old pitcher Bill Lee (29), a former All-Star for the Boston Red Sox, is transported from the bullpen to the diamond on a pedibike to start the fifth inning of a game against the Party Animals on Saturday, March 12, 2022 at Grayson Stadium.
Emily Olsen
USA TODAY Sports+

A bright yellow rickshaw pulled by a driver in a yellow Viking helmet arrived at the mound carrying a former MLB All Star on March 12. The 75-year-old took his position and threw out his debut pitch.

That left-handed pitcher was Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Bill Lee, who knows a thing or two about baseball.

The southpaw spent more than a decade playing for the Red Sox and Montreal Expos from 1969-1982, and earned an All-Star honor in 1973.

And he still hasn't retired. 

RELATED:A 75-year-old former All-Star pitcher, Bill 'Spaceman' Lee is 'perfect' for the Bananas

Nicknamed Spaceman, Lee spent time playing games in the United States, Canada and Cuba, usually for philanthropic efforts.

Most recently, he teamed up with the Savannah Bananas Premier Team, a self-proclaimed world famous baseball circus, for their Banana Ball World Tour. 

"This wasn't your typical baseball team, and he wasn't your typical pitcher," Bananas co-owner Jesse Cole said about recruiting Lee. "He's played for so many years with typical baseball teams. We're playing different rules — Banana Ball — I want him to see that. I want him to be a part of that."

The Savannah Bananas regular squad plays in the Coastal Plain League, consisting of 16 teams of college players from around the country. The Bananas' Premier Team now tours the country Harlem-Globetrotters style.

Lee makes regular lineup cameo appearances for Savannah and plays alongside former minor leaguers and MLB draftees. 

In 2020 after several Minor League Teams were cut, the Savannah Premier Team allowed players to get another opportunity to get in front of scouts and get paid. 

If you are looking for your traditional nine-inning American pastime, look elsewhere. Some of the obvious differences include: foul balls caught by fans get the batter out, no walks or bunts and a two-hour time limit. 

“We don’t want people to blink at our game because they might miss something," Cole said. "The idea is to have as little dead time as possible.”

Maybe odd for baseball traditionalists, but it makes the fans go bananas. The team in Savannah has had 150 consecutive home sellouts since 2016. 

And they are gaining popularity on social media. The Bananas have more TikTok followers than any MLB team and boast millions of views. 

TIKTOK'S FAVORITE TEAM:How the Savannah Bananas play ball