Dock Ellis and the LSD No-Hitter

On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, accomplished what is perhaps the single greatest achievement in the history of sports – he pitched a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD. Apparently he mistakenly thought he had the day off and dropped acid the morning of the game. He walked 8 batters, and hit a few, and had a bunch of wild pitches, but he pitched a no-hitter shut out, and won the game against the San Diego Padres 2-0. I’d heard this legend before, but never really understood the details. Here’s an animated version of the story, as told by Dock himself.

Dock was a great pitcher – he was the top pitcher for the Pirates in 1971 when they won the world series, but he was what baseball announcers refer to as “colorful,” or what we called a “char-actor” back in my old neighborhood. Dock used to put curlers in his hair, and wore them in the stadium during warm-ups, which got him a rebuke from the Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn. Dock was having none of it, and accused them of racism (no doubt true), saying, “They didn’t say anything to Joe Pepitone when he wore a shoulder-length hairpiece.”

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In another incident, sick and tired of being intimidated by the Cincinnati Reds, who beat the Pirates in the 1972 playoffs, Ellis announced before the May 1, 1974 game he started, “We gonna get down. We gonna do the do. I’m going to hit these motherfuckers.” Ellis then hit the next three batters to load the bases, walked in a run as Tony Perez dodged his fastballs, and was pulled from the game by manager Danny Murtaugh as he proceeded to throw at Johnny Bench’s head. The hilarious box score reads: 0 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K.

Here’s a video taken shortly before his death in 2008 – he succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver while awaiting a transplant – that gives you an idea of what a cool guy he was.

Many of the youtube commenters seem to think Dock is high in this video, but apparently he attained long-term sobriety and after retiring from baseball worked as a drug counselor. He’s not high, he just has that playful spacey goofiness so common amongst former heavy users of psychedelics. But apparently whatever he did, he did it too long. Dock Ellis, RIP.