ERIC: Dock Ellis was a talented but enigmatic pitcher who spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Blessed with good stuff, Ellis was also an addict who allowed his talent to be overcome by his addictions. After the birth of his son, Ellis got sober and spent his final years working as a drug counselor, but the ravages of his addictions had already taken their toll. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in 2007, while waiting for a transplant that never came.
Ellis’ best season was in 1971, when he won 19 games for the world champion Bucs and was the starting pitcher in the All Star game (although he gave up a mammoth home run to Reggie Jackson that night). Ellis ended his career with a 138-119 record and a very respectable 3.46 ERA.
The highlight of his career came the year before. On June 12, 1970, he tossed a 2-0 no-hitter against the hapless San Diego Padres, then in their second season (the early Padres—some of the worst teams ever—are profiled in the book version of You Stink!). What makes it all the remarkable is that Ellis was “as high as a Georgia pine,” tripping on the hallucinogen LSD, when he completed his gem.
Ellis did not believe that he was supposed to pitch that night, so he caught a flight from Los Angeles and took the drug expecting to watch the game from the dugout.
“I was in Los Angeles, and the team was playing in San Diego, but I didn’t know it. I had taken LSD….. I thought it was an off-day, that’s how come I had it in me. I took the LSD at noon. At 1pm, his girlfriend and trip partner looked at the paper and said, “Dock, you’re pitching today!”
“That’s when it was $9.50 to fly to San Diego. She got me to the airport at 3:30. I got there at 4:30, and the game started at 6:05pm. It was a twi-night doubleheader.”
When he arrived at Jack Murphy Stadium, he learned that it was, indeed, his turn to pitch that day. He later admitted that he was unable to see either the batter or the catcher clearly, and that he could not feel the baseball in his hand. He said that catcher Jerry May wore reflective tape on his fingers, which was the only way that the stoned Ellis could see his signals.
Ellis walked eight batters and struck out six, and was helped by outstanding defensive plays by second baseman Bill Mazeroski and outfielder Matty Alou. This is how Ellis recounted it years later:
“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.”
Thus ended the most bizarre no-hitter ever. By 1979, a victim of his own addiction, Ellis was out of the game, but not before winning another World Series championship with the Bucs that year. With its recent 42nd anniversary, we felt it was appropriate to acknowledge Ellis’ dubious accomplishment the only way we know how: the You Stink! way.
And kids, please don’t try this at home…