Geddy Lee is just like any other baseball fan. He checks in with MLB.com regularly, plays in a fantasy baseball league and obsesses over his favorite team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
Okay, maybe he's not just like other fans. For his day job, he's the bass player/singer of Rush. But — as seen in the Rush documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage — boasts a collection of baseballs that would be the envy of most collectors, including balls autographed by Cy Young, Christy Matherson, Satchel Paige, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Walter Johnson and Dizzy Dean, among others. He also has an exhibit named after him in the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The Geddy Lee collection includes a total of 400 baseballs with historical significance, including one signed by Henry Aaron.
Lee told our friends at Radio.com that he was introduced to the museum by a friend who is a fellow baseball enthusiast. "One time when I was in Kansas City, he said 'I’ve arranged for us to go to the Negro League Hall of Fame Museum,' and I thought, 'Awesome.' And so we went for a little tour of the place, and I was so moved by the stories of these players. It’s an important museum that needs to be supported. I believe it should be financed and supported by Major League Baseball, I think they owe it to the baseball world to support that place and it needs to be more well-known. Anyway, it was a very impressive moment for me to go through that tour of the place. And when I walked away from it, it just kind of stayed with me: the stories of all these guys, the conditions and the characters and the personalities, so many amazing personalities played in those days."
Soon after, Lee was at an auction to bid for more baseballs for his own collection. "I noticed there was quite a large collection of Negro League signatures going up for auction. And I just said, 'I think we should buy some of them and donate them to the museum, so let’s buy them for that purpose alone.' So there was over 200 in the first lot that I bought; 200 signatures that someone had collected. The full collection was over 400. I was not successful in bidding on the second half of it but I got the first half of it." He then contacted the person who outbid him for the other 200. "I said, 'This is my intent: it’s not to keep for me, it’s to donate to the museum, so would you sell me the other half of the collection?' And the guy said 'Sure.' And he did, and we got over 400 baseballs and we gave them to the museum. I didn’t expect them to do anything with my name with it. I just wanted them to have them. But when I went to visit on a subsequent tour, they had done a beautiful display, acknowledging my donation so, it was very sweet of them to do that and I think it’s great that they own those pieces. I just hope the museum can survive."
He continues, "I think it’s hard not to be moved in a place like that, regardless of your background or history, you know? There are great stories there and it was a tough time in America and America is supposed to represent the land of freedom, and yet there was this portion of society that was not free. Baseball was slow to come around to integration, and thankfully they did. And I think it’s the Negro League Museum that celebrates the lives of some fantastic athletes, and I think that’s the point. Let’s celebrate them along with the players that are in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. I think there’s always room to celebrate human achievement."
Of course, Lee is also interested in baseball's present, that's at least partially because he's involved in a very intricate fantasy league. He says he was turned on to it by Rush drummer/lyricist Neil Peart: "A friend of Neil’s was involved in a fantasy baseball league, and I was a fanatical baseball fan, and I’d been in other leagues before but they didn’t strike me as worth the time and effort. He introduced me to this league that had all kinds of statistics. They counted defensive statistics, they had tough position eligibility, and so I joined this league and I thought it was a blast; I loved it. I met a lot of really cool people who were also in the league and we’ve been growing it ever since then and we now have a 12 team league and we have great arguments about rules and points and it’s in-depth and it forces you to know every player in the majors and minors because we have 40 man rosters in our team. It’s a 'keeper league' so there’s guys you can keep and you can build a core of players, and it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a great escape for me when I’m on tour, and I love it."
Big decisions need to be made for his fantasy team, but a more immediate concern is his ballot for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Rush was inducted earlier this year, after more than a decade of eligibility. And as a Hall Of Famer, he gets to vote for future inductees. He hasn't decided on all of the artists he'll vote for, but he did name a pair of bands: "Well, certainly Deep Purple, certainly Yes. I have to give it a more complete thought, but those are two names that stand out as omissions in my view. Influence is a big part of the criteria, and you can make the case clearly for Deep Purple."
Happily, last year, the voters also made that case for Rush. The band is about to release a new live album, and Radio.com has an exclusive preview of the concert film coming later this week. Clockwork Angels Tour will be out on CD, mp3, DVD and BluRay next Tuesday (Nov. 19), but for 24 hours starting at noon EST on Thursday (Nov. 14), Radio.com will have six performances from the DVD available exclusively to stream. More details at Radio.com
-- Brian Ives, Radio.com
for more features.