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Notes from The Young Professor: Lou Piniella and Bill “Spaceman” Lee Reunite in Tampa, Florida

Lou Piniella and Bill “The Spaceman” Lee. Photo by Matt Graifer “The Young Professor”

47 years ago in May of 1976, Lou Piniella of the New York Yankees slid spikes up into home plate in a violent collision with catcher Carlton Fisk of the Boston Red Sox in the midst of a pretty tumultuous chapter of the two teams’ epic rivalry. This resulted in a benches-clearing BRAWL, which also involved Bill “The Spaceman” Lee, who just pitched 6 innings and was one of the first off the bench to join the fracas. Bill wound up getting slammed to the ground by Graig Nettles, separating his shoulder and altering the course of his performance throughout his remaining years with the Red Sox. The Spaceman and Nettles were ejected from the game, and the fight has become the stuff of lore in the storied history of the legendary Yankees/Red Sox rivalry.

47 years later at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, The Spaceman pitched once again against Lou Piniella’s team while Lou donned the Yankees pinstripes as he managed a team representing the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. This time, Bill approached him after a successful pitching performance for The Savannah Bananas in the 8th inning and while there was no intention to relive the events of May 1976, Bill Lee came over to Lou Piniella with a big smile and tons of Red Sox pride as he shouted at Lou, “I shut you down in your own house!” The two men laughed, shook hands, and embraced. Bill made mention of always being a Sock, and it was pretty evident that even after all these years, Bill still hangs onto his feelings about the Bronx Bombers and that legendary rivalry.

I happened to be in the dugout talking to Lou at the time and watched him take in Bill’s performance. As I saw Bill making his way over to see his old friend and rival, I knew it was a special moment. These two men have faced each other, interacted, and shared so many memories for decades and were embroiled in one of the most infamous baseball brawls of all time. I was fortunate enough to witness that moment and snag this photo. I couldn’t help but smile and appreciate the magnitude of what was happening in that brief moment in time as Sweet Lou and the Spaceman, aged 79 and 76 respectively, shared a professional baseball field once more in front of over 10,000 screaming fans.

 

"The Young Professor" Matt Graifer is a Florida-based, award winning professional host who has performed in front of over 400,000 fans over the course of his entertainment career. He is best known for his work as "The Bananannouncer" for The Savannah Bananas and as a Driver Introductions Announcer for the NASCAR Cup Series. He is a passionate public speaker and educator and LOVES keeping the energy high wherever he goes. The Professor's name comes from one of his earliest jobs: he became a college professor in the field of exercise science when he was just 25 years old and spent over seven years as a college educator. In 2015 he started moonlighting as a host of bar trivia games, which was where he began referring to himself as "The Young Professor". In 2018, he began working as a sports announcer: first as a professional wrestling ring announcer and as an On-Field MC for the Jacksonville Sharks where he spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He then began working as a ring announcer in MMA and boxing and also sat behind the desk as a professional wrestling play-by-play commentator. In 2021, he joined the Daytona Tortugas Minor League Baseball team (affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds) as their On-Field Host and also became the On-Court Host for the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Men's and Women's Basketball teams. In 2022, The Young Professor was picked up by The Savannah Bananas to be a part of their record breaking Bananaball World Tour, which is documented in the acclaimed ESPN+ docuseries Bananaland. Later that year, he was recruited by the Daytona International Speedway, The World Center of Racing, to be the first ever on-stage Driver Introductions Announcer for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in August. The Professor is still an educator at Matanzas High School in the social studies department and has been married to his wife Shanna since 2015. They have 4 children together.

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