Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dock Ellis - duncan23

June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis, a 25 year old pitcher for the Pittsburg Pirates was lazing around his girlfriend Mimi's LA apartment. He'd been doing what he normally did on his off-days, smoke marijuana, drink screwdrivers, take amphetamines and listen to Hendrix and Iron Butterfly. Not unusually, he did some Purple Haze, LSD. Not great timing, as Mimi, flipping through the newspaper announced, "Dock. It says here you're supposed to be pitching in San Diego." Turns out he'd slept for a day and had 5 hours to wash, fly, get to Jack Murphy stadium, change, and throw something small and hard, in various ways, while 50,000 people watched.

Ellis made it to the ground an hour before the start still under the influence of the acid. He decided to gulp half a dozen amphetamines as a "precautionary measure". Next, as Chuck Brodsky sings on his album 'The Baseball Ballads", "Time came to go on out there/ Down the corridor/The walls were a little bit wavy/There were ripples in the floor". Before taking the mound, Ellis found a female friend in the first row who always supplied him with Benzedrine when he was in town, which he added to his pre-match meal.

After warm-up it was game on. His action was wild. Wilder than usual. Ellis was used to pitching on amphetamines, in fact he depended on them to crank himself up, to the extent that, for 12 years he wouldn't pitch without them. This was different; Ellis actually bounced a few early pitches. Struggling but smiling strangely, he walked 8 batters and hit another, but his manager left him in and he found some kind of rhythm. In Brodsky's words, "Sometimes he saw the catcher/Sometimes he did not/Sometimes he held a beach ball/ Sometimes it was a dot". Ellis didn't bother to follow the score at all and, feeling that his teammates knew that something was up, decided it was advisable to avoid all eye contact with them. Batters would vanish and reappear and while his pitches seemed to be over the plate he couldn't be sure they were reaching. Each pitch had an after burn. Brodsky again: "Dock was tossing comets/ That were leaving trails of glitter/At the 7th inning stretch/He still had a no-hitter". Surviving a scare or two, Ellis got his no hitter and his name and record of the game went to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown.

Ellis could be wild and combative. He once deliberately threw at all the consecutive Cincinnati Reds batters he could as revenge for disrespectful comments, played in curlers after criticism of his hairstyle, and sat in the stands (with a gun in his pocket) amongst hecklers who called him "nigger." He revealed the truth about the San Diego game in 1984. Dock Ellis cleaned up after reading about someone shaking a baby to death, and realizing he couldn't tell how tightly he held his baby son. He is now a drug counsellor.

31 comments:

marcela said...

this may well be the best thing i've read all week. it's perfect.

the baby thing is wild.

hannibalbrooks said...

Wow! ....fuckin cool.

hannibalbrooks said...

Wow! ....fuckin cool.

greengrass said...

Powerful stuff, Duncan - that pure ring of "The truth and nothing but the truth - now make up your own mind!"

gg

MotM said...

Great story, brilliantly told.

When's the movie coming out?

offside said...

Duncan,

brilliant stuff! Sports, Drugs & Rock'n'Roll Writing! Loved the after-burn image.

Does this become the thread on which we trade stories about the craziest stunts we've pulled while on acid? Your pitch, Duncan... If you show me yours...

bluedaddy said...

Wonderful piece Duncan. It seems effortlessly concise, yet tells me so much about this guy and much more besides.

As for acid - an angel and devil of a drug I reckon.

andrewm said...

I second both of Hannibal's comments.

kokomo said...

now then, being a complete novice at baseball, and having to half skim read, did he pitch well or not? i don't know what a no-hitter is?

Anyway, i love stories like this, and really enjoyed the article.

nice one!

guitougoal said...

K.K. no hitter means no run was scored against the pitcher-which , in the world of baseball,is considered as a great achievement.
Duncan, your Dock's story reminds me of Steve Howe who pitched for the Dodgers in the 80's.He was suspended and fined for coke several times until the MLB banned him for life and he may be a drug counselor as we speak...

miro said...

Yesterday, addressing the GU Sportblog cardinals, I suggested Russell Brand to be sidelined 3 weeks per month, with the bloggers articles edited instead. This is the one of those I had in mind!

duncan said...

thanks to everyone who has read my scribbling. i naturally prefer it when it's someone else's "birthday", not my own. your nice comments give me the confidence to submit something else. not about baseball i promise!

marcela,
always good to get your thumbs-up early on.. and i mean that in a most non-risque way!

hannibal,
you've been missed on the GU blog! are you now marvingaye and joe90? don't answer that! great goals by crouch t'other day.

gg,
the 500 word limit "helped" me be concise. i think you'd like the brodsky album, maybe i'll add it to your parcel?

motm,
i think the story is so good that it basically tells itself. my job was not to fuck it up too much!
the movie will be out when they find someone to adopt the hilda ogden minus scarf look:

http://www.baseballreliquary.org/EllisCurlers.htm

offside,
sorry for the lack of sex in the piece! i don't have any personal acid stories worth sharing; actually i make a prat of myself just looking for mushrooms...
i'd like to hear yours though.

bluedaddy,
glad you enjoyed it. the main effort was trimming down from 846 words to 500. bloody kalou...grr.

andrew,
cheers. funny quote from rafa the other day about rotating his squad 99 times.

kokomo,
i'm not really much of a baseball fan to be honest. but yes, dock pitched well. i know that dock put people on base by walking them(pitching wide) and hitting them with the ball, but none of them managed a hit that was enough to make it to first base, and he didn't conceded any runs. since they change the ball every 6 pitches it loads the odds in favour of the batter. (see the low scoring dead-ball era).
i suppose it would be the equivalent of bowling about 20 consecutive maiden overs with no break.

guitougoal,
never heard of steve howe, except the Yes guitarist, but i'll check into him. dock ellis says HE never pitched without drugs.

duncan said...

miro,
were'd you come from?

thanks! i was amused by the guy who was calling you milo the other day, like he was reading catch 22 or something.

hannibalbrooks said...

Duncan

'are you now marvingaye and joe90?'

No, but imagine the problems that that specific multiple personality disorder would present... some funky space reincarnation (ahem)that one. I still check out what's going on (ahem) as if Gu was a distant lover (ahem) but here my dear (ahem ... this cough is getting worse) is an iteresting American sports clip, but it's basketball, not baseball ... though having read this guy's autobiography, I know he was coked off his tits while he did it....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRvVzaQ6i8A

duncan said...

hannibal,
to make that awful song sound that brilliant is an achievement. i began to wonder, at the beginning, with those glasses...if you'd found some rare unreleased episode, joe 90...with the brainpattern of a great soul singer!
marvin's time in england is a pretty bizarre part of that book i imagine, staying with posh types and drinking down the local, but surely they weren't able to copy his brain while he was here?

hannibalbrooks said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSaPF8Y_l04

I remember when the opening modulated sound effects and that spinning ball/cage were considered the height of futuristic technology. I must be very old :o(

But I'm not as old as this, which I remember being both transfixed by and hiding behind the setee whenever the dwarf appeared.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wijRu_jl9HU

I would have been barred from GU about three times already on this thread.

duncan said...

ha ha,
who needs acid when you've got TSRT? just when I was thinking hmm i must obey/have that teutonic bitch, up pops the bear to carry her off and there's nothing the hapless hordes of don quixote's can do about it!

sunday afternoons could get pretty spooky in the early 60's eh?

as for Gerry & Sylvia, bloody marvelous. they could make baseball look exciting...

hey Ebren, can you let him get away with this?!

Ebren said...

Dunc, can't do a damn thing.

HB, Sir Ol, Ol Reed, Boca Juniors, and some soul singer have tied me up.

I can only communicate using voice recognition, and they have trained the software to write Panteloons every time I say Panteloons.

Damnit!

MotM said...

Hannibal - I was behind the sofa with you I think.

Superb clips which I shall watch at leisure tonight, once I've got the sofa sorted out.

levremance said...

I liked it a lot too.
The whole thing came to life, warm afternoon, colour and light, the crowd, the song. Baseball generates a lot of great stories. I'm glad I read this one.

bluedaddy said...

The yanks get Marvin Gaye and we get this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juDgXQ1ddKE

greengrass said...

Hannibal -
mighty clips!
Funny, the way the Germans imagined a
bear would look and move.
I wonder if Jimmy Clitheroe played the dwarf?
gg

greengrass said...

BD,
I didn't mind the dwarf, but Cliff Richard scared the shit out of me.
gg

hannibalbrooks said...

BD

You really should warn people before you go posting clips like that. My dog was sat next to me when it started but has now hidden behind the sofa and won't come out.

Great result for us tonight from a not so hot performance. You might yet get to see a big game at Anfield this season yet BD.

Shame about Aurelio's calf popping and an even greater source of shame about the way Dirk's haircut is morphing into a rollinga ... someone really should have a word with him.

Ebren said...

not sure anyone's about here HB. Head to the taproom for some action...

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