Dock Ellis: The LSD Sports Hero
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Dock Ellis: The LSD Sports Hero

The best player you've never heard of.

Dock Ellis: The LSD Sports Hero

If you have heard of baseball player Dock Ellis, you probably only know that on June 12th, 45 years ago, he joined the elite list of major league pitchers to throw a no hitter. Oh, and he also did so while under the influence of LSD. For those of you have not heard of Ellis, yes, you did read that correctly.

Legend has it that Dock did not even wake up knowing he would be pitching that day. Instead, two days prior to that summer afternoon, Ellis, knowing it was an off day, took a cab and visited friends for a night of fun in California. Unbeknownst to him, two days had actually passed and Dock was scheduled to start against the San Diego Padres. Unluckily, or luckily it proved to be, the starting pitcher had taken another dosage of LSD that same morning. Still, he rushed to the field showing up just over an hour before the game time. Fortunately, Dock was used to pitching while under the influence. In fact, he claims to have never pitched a professional game sober. While on the mound that infamous day, Ellis recalls that he could not see the batters, that the ball consistently changed sizes, and that he did not know he had actually thrown a no hitter until after the game. Regardless, after letting nine men on base as a result of both hitting and walking batters, Dock Ellis joined baseball immortality by throwing a no-hitter.

This one day of his eleven year major league career, and 63-year life, is what most of those who have heard of him remember today. Most fail to mention that he was a World Series champion, he was voted AL Comeback Player of the Year in 1976, he pitched in the first ever All-Star game featuring two African American starting pitchers, and that he was a part of the first all African American starting lineup in major league history.

Ellis was also outspoken and crazy in the best of ways. He was fined for wearing curlers in his hair during games. One game, in an attempt to protect the pride of his Pirate teammates, Ellis aimed to hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds lineup, before getting taken out after the fifth batter. Yet at the same time, Ellis consistently fought to end discrimination in baseball, and never gave into the social norms that came with playing a sport that had for so many years been dominated by white men. Jackie Robinson, in response to Ellis’s continuous activism, wrote to Dock saying, “Try not to be left alone, try to get more players to understand your views and you will find great support. You have made a real contribution. I do appreciate what you do.”

After retiring from baseball in 1980, Ellis finally checked into a rehabilitation center to help end both his drugs and alcohol addictions. After this experience, Ellis became a changed man. He never touched drugs or alcohol again, and even began counseling other players and prison inmates. His style of honest, no-bullshit mentoring, combined with his own experience and struggles allowed Dock to have a truly immeasurable impact on countless addicts and criminals. Dock explains in an interviewed featured in the documentary entitled No No:A Dockumentary “The first pitch, the first strike out of Willie Mays, the first win against the Dodgers, I can put groups of kids in that category. I get calls now from guys, a guy called me the other night… That’s the reward I get.”

Dock Ellis passed away on December 19th, 2008 of liver ailments caused by his drug and alcohol usage. Despite his professional baseball accomplishments, including his notable and certainly out of the ordinary no hitter, Dock deserves to remember what he seems to have done best in life: Helping those who struggled in much the same way he once did.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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