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.
So 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.
In 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.