Monday, March 11, 2013

A birthday salute to the late, great Dock Ellis

Dock Phillip Ellis, Jr. (March 11, 1945 – December 19, 2008) was a professional baseball player. A pitcher, Ellis played inMajor League Baseball from 1968 through 1979 for the Pittsburgh PiratesNew York YankeesOakland AthleticsTexas Rangers, and New York Mets. In his MLB career, he had a 138–119 win-loss record, a 3.46 earned run average, and 1,136strikeouts.
Ellis threw a no-hitter on June 12, 1970. He later claimed that he accomplished the feat under the influence of LSD. Ellis was the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game in 1971. That year, the Pirates were World Series champions. Joining the Yankees in 1976, he helped lead the team to the 1976 World Series, and was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year in the process.
Ellis was an outspoken individual who advocated for the rights of players and African Americans. He also had a substance abuse problem, and he acknowledged after his retirement that he never pitched without the use of drugs. After going into treatment Ellis remained sober and devoted the remainder of his life to counseling drug addicts in treatment centers and prisons. He died of a liver ailment in 2008 at the age of 63. 

June 12, 1970, no-hitter

The Pirates flew to San Diego on a Thursday for a series against the San Diego Padres. Ellis reported that he used LSD and lost track of time. Thinking it was still Thursday, he took a hit of LSD on Friday at noon, and his friend's girlfriend reminded him at 2:00 pm that he was scheduled to pitch that night; the game started at 6:05 pm.[5]
Pitching under the influence of LSD, Ellis pitched a no-hitter against the Padres on June 12, 1970. He threw a no-hitter despite being unable to feel the ball or see the batter or catcher clearly.[24] Ellis said his catcher Jerry May wore reflective tape on his fingers which helped him to see May's signals. Ellis walked eight batters and struck out six, and he was aided by excellent fielding plays from second baseman Bill Mazeroski and center fielder Matty Alou.[25]
As Ellis recounted it:
I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the [catcher's] glove, but I didn't hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters, and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't. Sometimes, I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn't hit hard and never reached me.[26]
Ellis reported that he never used LSD during the season again, though he continued to use amphetamines.[5]
The incident inspired the songs "Dock Ellis" by Barbara Manning, "America's Favorite Pastime" by Todd Snider, "Dock Ellis' No-No" by Chuck Brodsky.[27] Robin Williamsincorporated the tale into a standup routine for HBO.[28] An animated short film about the game, "Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No", features narration in Ellis's own voice, taken from a 2008 radio interview.[28] Director Jeffrey Radice and producers Chris Cortez and Mike Blizzard began developing a feature length documentary about Ellis' life, titled No No: A Dockumentary.[29]

1 comment:

  1. Nice Pirates blog!

    Re. Dock Ellis:
    I absolutely love that animated short film!

    Also, I recently finished reading the Donald Hall bio. on Ellis, which I'd recommend to any baseball fan (if you haven't read it already, that is.)

    In fact, I lately made some Dock-related posts on my blog—if you ever want to visit.

    Keep up the good work!