Dock Ellis Was 63, Awesome

Dock Ellis

Former All-Star pitcher Dock Ellis, who the Detroit Free Press seems to imply is best known for giving up a monstrous home run to Reggie Jackson during the 1971 All-Star Game, died Friday at age 63:

Ellis, who allowed Reggie Jackson’s famous home run off the rightfield transformer at the 1971 All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium, played 12 seasons with the Pirates, Yankees, A’s, Rangers and Mets. He retired in 1979 with a record of 138-119, but was best known for several colorful incidents.

In his autobiography, “Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball,” Ellis revealed he threw a no-hitter against the Padres in June 1970 while under the influence of LSD.

I don’t know, I’d probably argue that Dock Ellis is better known for the acid trip no-no than serving up batting practice at Tiger Stadium. He certainly should be, at least.

The story — or chunks of it — courtesy of the preview option on Google Books:

In May of 1970 the Pirates made their first western swing of the season, beginning with San Diego. They flew into San Diego on a Thursday, an off day. A twi-night doubleheader was scheduled for Friday, with Dock pitching the first game.

As soon as he had checked into the hotel, Dock rented a car and drove to Los Angeles, and went directly to the house of a young woman, old girlfriend of Al Rambo, whom Dock had not seen for some time. “The first thing, we turned Jimi Hendrix on, and we made some screwdrivers.”

Dock and Al’s girl talked through the night, drinking slowly, never quite drunk. “I don’t think I ever went to sleep. About noon the next day I realized I was pitching!”

“So I arrived there about five-thirty. The game’s at five after six. They had just finished up batting. I ran right out to the bullpen and started warming up.”

I observe, “You must have been pretty flaky.”

“I knew what I was doing. I was in control. When I drank that coffee, that knocked that vodka out of there. Drank a lot of coffee.”

It was probably not the first no-hitter pitched by someone who had spent the previous night drinking alcohol. The Baseball Encyclopedia remains unclear on this point.

A footnote referring to pages 316-317, however, suggests that it very well may have been the first to be pitched under the influence of LSD.

Some of that text, from an apparent revision of the autobiography:

“Readers will have noticed in our earlier chapters a certain emphasis on alcohol, and some doubtless self-deceiving gaiety about getting high. Because alcohol is legal and other substances are not, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball (1976) was incomplete, inaccurate, and on occasion mendacious. I omitted some stories that required mention of amphetamines or cocaine–to protect other players alive and dead; I relied on Dock’s sense of propriety. When I described Dock pitching a no-hitter after a night spent drinking screwdrivers, I lied and committed an improbability–although historic baseball tells many stories about hungover homers and red-eyed shutouts. Dock was high not on vodka but acid. He told me the story while he was still working for the Pirates. When he visited us in New Hampshire–February, 1976–to read over the manuscript and approve or make changes, he had been traded to the Yankees.

(W)e removed a few stories about other ballplayers–substance abuse, women–that might have hurt them or their families; we diminished the frequency of a gerund; and we changed LSD into vodka. When we came to the pages about his acid no-hitter, Dock shook his head sadly:  “I am working,” he said, “for Mr. Steinbrenner.”

So I cut and substituted. I wrote “we made some screwdrivers” instead of “we took some tabs.” I substituted “about noon the next day, I realized I was pitching,” for the more astonishing “I might have slept maybe an hour. I got up maybe about nine or ten in the morning. Took another half tab.” When he arrived at the clubhouse, my bowdlerized story had Dock drink a lot of coffee. Instead he swallowed Dexamyl and Benzedrine. “When I took those greenies,” he had told me, “that knocked that acid out of there. Had a couple of bennies, too.”

Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball is available on Amazon.com.

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