Monday, March 11, 2013

Dock Ellis, Major League Pitcher and Cultural Curio

Born on this date was Dock Ellis, the man who pitched a no-hitter while on an acid trip.

Dock Ellis, born in southern Los Angeles on this date in 1945, was a promising athlete in both baseball and basketball who nearly saw his career derailed by his bad behavior.  He got in trouble for drinking in high school, and then, in 1964, was arrested for stealing a car.

Ellis in curlers
His career could have foundered there, but he signed a minor league contract with a minor league team in Batavia, New York.  Though his record was never much above mediocre, he was called up to Pittsburgh a few years later to pitch for the Pirates.  There he continued his undistinguished career, going 30-32 in his first three years as a big leaguer.

Ellis was a heavy drug user who liked to take amphetamines on days that he started; when he was not pitching, he often took LSD.  On June 12, 1970, Ellis was at home in Los Angeles in the midst of an extended acid experience.  His girlfriend reminded him that he needed to get to San Diego for the Pirates-Padres game.  Ellis told her that that game was scheduled for Friday, the next day.  What he didn't realize is that he had lost a day due to his drug use, and that the game he was scheduled to start was that afternoon.

Ellis made it to San Diego in a hurry and took the mound for the first game in a day-night doubleheader, still tripping on acid.  He later said that he could not feel the ball in his hand, nor could he see the batter at the plate.  Instead, he concentrated on strips of reflective tape on the fingers of his catcher, Jerry May.

That day, June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter.  And if that's not enough, his name, written on the starting lineup was Ellis, D.  That's Ellis, D.

View the video below to hear the man himself tell the story of what happened.  To hear a convergence of baseball history and early-90s west-coast indie rock, check out "Dock Ellis" by Barbara Manning of the San Francisco Seasls.  But please, kids, don't try this at home!

Source Cited:

Brennan, Carol. "Ellis, Dock." Contemporary Black Biography. Ed. Derek Jacques, Janice Jorgensen, and 
     Paula Kepos. Vol. 78. Detroit: Gale, 2010. 46-48. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Is that really him in the video? That was amazing! Oooooh, I hit a touch down!