The night Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres 42 years ago is one of baseball’s open secrets. All major league sports take themselves too seriously but for some reason “the show” seems to be most uptight. Aside from the sheer cool factor of what he did, it seems totally impossible that something like that could ever happened again. The guy was tripping while throwing a baseball at people how are paid to swing at it and not one even touched it.
In a sport all about the routine, Ellis thought he had the day off. He died in 2008, but had this to say about his claim to fame:
“I was in Los Angeles, and the team was playing in San Diego , but I didn’t know it. I had taken LSD….. I thought it was an off-day, that’s how come I had it in me. I took the LSD at noon.” Somewhere around 1:00, his girlfriend delivered the news that Ellis was indeed scheduled to pitch that night, which she announced with the new famous line, “Dock, you’re pitching today!”
“That’s when it was $9.50 to fly to San Diego. She got me to the airport at 3:30. I got there at 4:30, and the game started at 6:05pm. It was a twi-night doubleheader. I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria.”
“I was zeroed in on the catcher’s glove, but I didn’t hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn’t hit hard and never reached me.”
Later in life Ellis renounced drugs but at least he was able to give baseball something to worry (and laugh) about while he was on them. Here’s Todd Snider’s song about it, called “America’s Favorite Pastime.”