Former Major League All-Star pitcher Dock Ellis has passed away. Ellis was 63 and died of a liver ailment. We first heard of Ellis when we were young and reading an autobiography about Roberto Clemente.
Those 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates that won the World Series were led by the finest season that Dock Ellis ever had (19-9, 3.06 ERA).
Ellis was better known for a few other incidents, namely throwing a no-no in a mind altered state; you know on LSD/acid. And we mention this because do you have any idea how hard it would be to throw a no-hitter or even go out on the mound and throw to big league hitters on acid? Or on any drug? Or in anything but a 100% pure physical state? That’s herculean in itself.
No-hitting the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970 despite being, as he would claim in 1984, under the influence of LSD throughout the course of the game Ellis had been visiting friends in Los Angeles under the impression he had the day off and was still high when his girlfriend told him he had to pitch a game against the Padres that night. Ellis boarded a shuttle flight to the ballpark and threw a no-hitter despite not being able to feel the ball or clearly see the batter or catcher. Ellis claims catcher Jerry May wore reflective tape on his fingers which helped Ellis to see his target. Ellis walked eight, struck out six, and was aided by excellent fielding plays by second baseman Bill Mazeroski and centerfielder Matty Alou. During the game, Ellis is reported to have commented to his teammates on the bench between innings that he was pitching a no-hitter, despite the superstition that discourages mentioning a no-hitter while it is in progress. Because the no-hitter was the first game of a double header, Ellis was forced to keep track of the pitch count for the night game.
Ellis also had the guts to pitch inside. This was evidenced by the time that he decided he would hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds (during their Big Red Machine days) lineup.
Attempting to hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds lineup on May 1, 1974. In an effort to prove a point to teammates, Ellis hit Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Driessen in the top of the first. The clean-up batter Tony Perez avoided Ellis’ attempts, instead drawing a walk, and after two pitches aimed at the head of Johnny Bench, Ellis was removed from the game by manager Danny Murtaugh. Ellis’ box score for the game reads: 0 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K.
Ellis ended up being a drug and alcohol counselor before his death. By all accounts, he was a guy who was a lot of fun to watch pitch who we would have loved to have seen throw. Rest easy, Dock. Say hey to Bobby Clemente up there and see if the Mick can catch up to your heater. If he can, the drinks are on you.