Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dock Ellis

Dock Phillip Ellis, Jr. was a Major League Baseball player who pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates, among other teams. His best season was 1971, when he won 19 games for the World Series champion Pirates and was the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game. However, he is perhaps best remembered for the claim that he threw a no-hitter in 1970 while under the influence of LSD.

Ellis pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970. He would admit in 1984 to being under the influence of LSD throughout the course of the game. Ellis had been visiting friends in Los Angeles under the impression he had the day off and was still high when his friend's girlfriend told him he had to pitch a game against the Padres that night. Ellis boarded a shuttle flight to the ballpark and threw a no-hitter despite not being able to feel the ball or clearly see the batter or catcher. Ellis claims catcher Jerry May wore reflective tape on his fingers which helped Ellis to see his target. Ellis walked eight, struck out six, and was aided by excellent fielding plays by second baseman Bill Mazeroski and center fielder Matty Alou. During the game, teammates are reported to have commented to Ellis on the bench between innings that he was pitching a no-hitter, despite the superstition that discourages mentioning a no-hitter while it is in progress. Because the no-hitter was the first game of a double header, Ellis was forced to keep track of the pitch count for the night game.[5]

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."
Arguing with and being maced by a Riverfront Stadium security guard on May 5, 1972. The guard claimed Ellis did not identify himself and "made threatening gestures with a closed fist"; Ellis countered that he was showing his World Series ring as evidence of his affiliation with the Pirates.

Ellis attempted to hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds lineup on May 1, 1974, in an effort to prove a point to teammates. Ellis hit Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Driessen in the top of the first. The clean-up batter Tony Perez avoided Ellis's attempts, instead drawing a walk, and after two pitches aimed at the head of Johnny Bench, Ellis was removed from the game by manager Danny Murtaugh.

On December 11, 1975, Ellis was traded to the New York Yankees along with Ken Brett and Willie Randolph in exchange for Doc Medich. Ellis went on to play for the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, New York Mets then ended his career back in Pittsburgh. He finished with a lifetime record of 138-119 and an ERA of 3.46.

Ellis collaborated with future U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall on a book, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball, which was published in 1976. Although Hall knew of the LSD incident, it was not included in the first edition of the book.

Dock Ellis retired to Victorville, California, and a career as a drug counselor. An alcoholic, he was diagnosed with cirrhosis in 2007 and was on the list for a transplant at the time of his death. reported on December 19, 2008, that Ellis had died at USC Medical Center in Los Angeles due to "a liver ailment."

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