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Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter while on the effects of LSD

Brad Smithfield

Dock Phillip Ellis, Jr. (March 11th, 1945 – December 19th, 2008) was an American baseball player known for his volatile attitude on and off the pitch.

Opposing strict baseball norms by wearing hair curlers during a match, the fabled player was a true baseball dissident.

He was a World Series Champion in 1971 while playing for the Pirates, appeared at the Major League All-Star Game, helped lead the Yankees to the 1976 World Series and was a “Comeback Player” in the same year. An outspoken advocate for the rights of players and African Americans, he opposed the slightest hint of racism in sports with violent outbursts.

His lifetime achievements are almost overshadowed by his famous no-hitter pitch on June 12th, 1970, while on the effects of LSD.

Dock Ellis with the Pirates. Photo Credit

Dock Ellis with the Pirates. Photo Credit

Ellis was a constant thrash-talker and a loudmouth, as his records show numerous acts of aggression on and off the field.

The rowdy behavior was triggered by alcohol or drug-fueled brawls, but he compensated through his competitiveness and outstanding baseball skills.

He was arrested for grand theft auto, chased a heckler with a baseball bat, got maced by a security guard for refusing to show his ID, bean balled a couple of players, constantly got into fights, etc. There had never been a dull moment in his career.


Poster for the No No: A Dockumentary, a film about Dock Ellis' pitch. Photo Credit

Poster for the No No: A Dockumentary, a film about Dock Ellis’ life and his famous pitch. Photo Credit

As a right-handed pitcher, Ellis played in the Major League Baseball (1968 – 1979) for various baseball teams: the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, and other teams. With an impressive 138–119 win–loss record, a 3.46 earned run average and 1,136 strikeouts, Dock Ellis certainly makes up for his exuberant demeanor.

He studied at Gardena High School in California and had a very intense childhood. He played basketball for the school team but refused to participate in baseball because of racial remarks and insults.

When he got caught smoking marijuana and drinking on campus, the school administration, knowing that he would show as an excellent player, promised not to expel him only if he agreed to play in the team.

 He played baseball as an infielder for a local semi-professional team called the "Pittsburgh Pirates Rookies", along with future major leaguers Bobby Tolan, Roy White, Ron Woods, Reggie Smith, Don Wilson, Bob Watson, and Dave Nelson; the team was managed by Chet Brewer. Photo Credit

Chet Brewer, a right-hand pitcher. He played alongside Ellis in the “Pittsburgh Pirates Rookies”. Photo Credit

Ellis was diagnosed with an inherited blood disorder, which caused him problems throughout his career. Supposedly, this extended his erratic behavior and drug abuse. He explained that he used drugs not only to numb the pain but to avoid the fear of failure.

He retired in 1980 because he “got bored playing baseball”. In contrast to his drug-fueled antics, he worked as a drug counselor and also trained minor league players.

The pitch

The Pittsburgh Pirates took a flight to San Diego on June 11th. They were scheduled to play against the San Diego Padres. Meanwhile, Ellis was visiting a girlfriend in Los Angeles and as he thought that he had the day off,  he took an LSD at noon.

He completely forgot the fact that he was slated to start the game against the San Diego Padres. He wasn’t even aware that he had to play that day, reportedly losing any sense of time (perhaps even space).

Fortunately, his girlfriend had accidentally found out in a newspaper about the game scheduled for that day.

San Diego Stadium. Now it's known as Qualcomm Stadium. Photo Credit

Qualcomm Stadium. Formerly known as San Diego Stadium, in which Ellis pitched the famous no-hitter. Photo Credit

Dazed and still affected by the LSD, he rushed to the airport, took the flight from LA at 3 PM and arrived at the San Diego Stadium at 4:30 PM. The game started at 6:05 PM.

The baseball legend had been “high as a Georgia pine” at that point. He threw the startling no-hitter on a faithful Friday, June 12th, 1970, without feeling the ball on his fingers or even see straight. Jerry May, the Pirates’ catcher, wore a reflective tape on his fingers so that Ellis could see the signals.

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