Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee had stopped breathing after collapsing in the bullpen during an exhibition game, but paramedics and two shocks with a defibrillator helped resuscitate the 75-year-old pitcher, a witness at the scene said.
“Without immediate intervention, I don’t believe he would be here today,” Thunderbolt administrator Bob Milie told the Associated Press on Saturday, a day after the heart attack during a game for the popular Savannah Bananas.
“He wasn’t breathing,” said Milie, who is also a firefighter in the town of Georgia, a few miles from Savannah. “It was very, very bad.”
Banana manager Eric Byrnes posted a photo on Twitter of himself with Lee — a member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame — at Memorial Health University Medical Center on Saturday.
One of Lee’s daughters arrived in town and was with him at the hospital, said team president Jared Orton.
“She said he’s in a good mood and still being evaluated for next steps in recovery, but he’s definitely behaving like himself,” Orton said in an email to the AP.
Orton said a member of the Bananas front office was staying with Lee in the hospital after midnight.
Milie was at Grayson Stadium to see the Bananas, an entertaining team known for its bright yellow uniform and clownish antics on and off the field. The game against the Party Animals was on ESPN2.
Lee, affectionately known as “Spaceman” for his irreverent approach during his days with the Red Sox and Montreal Expos, had previously pitched for the Bananas. When it crashed Friday night, some people on the fringes briefly thought it might have been part of their team’s “Bananas Ball” act.
“You never know with the Bananas. It was like ‘is this… Wait, this is definitely not part of the show,'” Milie said.
Milie, who was not part of the team treating Lee, commended all paramedics, police, firefighters and rescuers at the scene for their prompt action.
Milie said Lee was shocked twice with the defibrillator on the field.
“The second, who seemed to do the trick, got the heart pumping,” he said.
Lee was able to leave the field with assistance and the game resumed later.
In 14 seasons with Boston and Montreal, Lee went 119-90. An All-Star in 1973, the southpaw helped pitch the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series and started Game 7 against Cincinnati. Lee was out in the seventh inning and Boston later lost 4-3 to Cincinnati.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.