The X-Met Files: The 44th Anniversary of Doc Ellis & the LSD No-No


As far as I understand it, based solely on things I’ve read in magazines, it’s difficult to tie your shoes while on LSD. Meanwhile, there are others who’ve maintained that they actually become better drivers while on acid. I guess the late, great Doc Ellis falls into the later category, since he claimed that on June 12th, 1970, he pitched a no-hitter while still experiencing the effects of LSD.

“On LSD?!” you might exclaim. “Impossible!”

But consider this: It was against the sad-sack San Diego Padres.

I realize that most readers don’t click on videos. And I get that, I’m often the same way. But I urge you to please check out this brilliant, wildly entertaining, borderline-genius, animated short by artist James Blagden. It tells the story of Dock’s no-no better than anybody, largely because it uses a combination of fantastic imagery and Dock’s own (unreliable) first-person narrative. Pretty sure this is 1) The best thing on the interwebs and 2) a tremendous document of baseball’s only no-hitter thrown while on acid.

Favorite line: “Oh wow, what happened to yesterday?”

For more documentation, try Deadspin here or this terrific piece at Snopes, which includes other wild tales of Dock’s misadventures (the story of how he got maced by a security guard in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, for instance).

Another classic story is how on May 1, 1974, Dock Ellis, intent on teaching the Bucs a lesson in aggressiveness, set out to hit every batter on the Cincinnati Reds. Again, Dock’s own words, as told to Donald Hall:

“Cincinnati will bullshit with us and kick our ass and laugh at us. They’re the only team that talk about us like a dog. Whenever we play that team, everybody socializes with them.” In the past the roles had been reversed. “When they ran over to us, we knew they were afraid of us. When I saw our team doing it, right then I say, `We gonna get down. We gonna do the do. I’m going to hit these motherfuckers.’ ”

The danger, here, is to let that one legendary game define any player. Actually, I find the June 12th game more interesting in terms of how it defines an era in American life. It’s not so much about the sport as it is a reflection on the wild and crazy times. I was there, with 4 older brothers and 2 older sisters. I remember.

Dock-Ellis561So I want to take a quick moment to recall the pitcher, Dock Ellis, who made his professional debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 18th, 1968. Dock had a nice career, got the start in 6 postseason games, and was a key figure on the legendary “We Are Family” team that won the World Series in 1971.

Though he only made one All-Star team, and finished with a modest career record of 138-119,  I always remembered Dock as a formidable pitcher, largely due to his best two seasons, 1971 and ’72. Dock went a combined 34-16 those years with an ERA under 2.90. That’s the Ellis I recall most clearly, back when I was 10-11 years old and in awe of those fierce Pirates’ teams of Clemente and Stargell, Sanguillen and Oliver. Besides Dock and Blass, they also featured the all-meat trio of Moose, Veale, and Lamb on the pitching staff — a factoid that struck me as hilarious. Dave Guisti, Mudcat Grant, and Bruce Kison anchored the bullpen. I can picture them all winding up even as I type.

In 1971, Ellis posted a 0.91 ERA against the Mets in 4 starts. Then in 3 more starts in ’72, Dock enjoyed a 2.14 ERA against the Mets. He killed us during that stretch, and for that reason he was always in my young mind (as well as in my mother’s expression), trouble. The reality was something else, because when you subtract those two seminal seasons, Ellis was merely an average pitcher.

Or an extremely talented pitcher who maybe had some off-the-field issues, ahem.

dock_ellis-2In Dock’s final season, 1979, he gave the Mets 85 fairly awful innings, surrendering 110 hits for an ERA of 6.04. By that time, the shit was shot for old Dock, but he will be fondly remembered here at “2 Guys,” and in the Ultimate Mets Database in the sky.

There is a classic book by Donald Hall that I have not yet read, titled Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball. It’s just shot to the top of my list.

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  1. Michael Geus says:

    I have my small memories of Dock as a Met. He was done, of course. I had forgotten he was a Yankee, and in fact, he had a great 1976 season for them. He was part of the Randolph trade, that was some trade for the Yankees.

    • BTW, Mike, that should be a post someday. The Big List of once-great players who came to the Mets after they were completely shot. I feel like we just discussed another guy that fit this category just the other day? I mean, you could start with half the roster for the ’62 team and just keep rolling.

  2. Mike Geus says:

    W. K. Kortas mentioned Spahn just the other day. There are so many, the pre-1969 marketing plan was basically to acquire as many shot cases as possible.

  3. Reese Kaplan says:

    Washed up vets who were shells of their former selves when they were with the Mets? Jim Fregosi, Willie Mays, Richie Hebner, Mo Vaughn, Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth, etc. I’m leaving out those who had one last more-or-less solid hurrah such as Rickey Henderson or Eddie Murray. When the caffeine kicks in I can probably think of a dozen more.

  4. IB says:

    Carlos Baerga, Roberto Alomar(!!) and, my personal favorite, Ellis Valentine.

    As Bob Murphy might have put it, “Oh, so many more!”

  5. ZAP says:

    As a Cardinal, you can’t forget the METS nemesis Vince Coleman, (who, btw, in his own right became a nemesis as a MET player)

  6. Dave says:

    Mickey Lolich

  7. I think the rules have to be stricter. As a guideline, I think it’s got to be the guy’s last team and last season (though I think Willie Mays qualifies, because: Willie Mays!). So Farnsworth, for example, just doesn’t cut this list. Not a good enough player, ever. Rickey Henderson might have been a contender if . . . the Mets were his last team (no) and if he was terrible for us (only in 2000). He’s close. I’ll have to think about this. Maybe we could get more specific, like: Rickey Henderson, 2000 season. I mean, he was one of the greatest to ever play the game. Roberto Alomar was a huge disappointment, but not the kind of total disaster I’m thinking about. Actually, Dock Ellis is just a great example, where you pretty much don’t ever think of him as a Met at all. It could definitely be a post for another day: X-Met Files: The Washed-Up Greats.

  8. Mets offensive rankings, NL only: 8th in Runs, 8th in OBP, 14th in BA, 14th in SLG, 1st in WALKS.

    Sandy must be very proud. Most boring offense in baseball.

  9. Raff says:

    I always remember that Joe Torre had just enough left in him to establish an all-time record – grounding into 4 double plays in a single game- endearing himself to his new town by playing Rodgers and Hammerstein show-tunes medleys on a baby grand affixed to his back, while slogging his way down the line to 1st base. I looked it up today – July 21 1975— Felix Milan was on 1st base on all 4 double plays.

    • James Preller says:

      I think Torre qualifies, though he had a nice penultimate season. Great player who ended his career on fumes . . . For the NY Mets.

  10. Robert Henry says:

    Nice post… just an FYI, the “We Are Family” Pirates was the 1979 championship version, which finished the season a mere 35 games ahead of Doc and the Mets

  11. Mettle from Blue and Orange Nation says:

    Part of me wants to think that this was a myth. Ellis could have done a Pinocchio and told a lie for attention

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