Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No (45 Years Later)

Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No

On June 12, 1970, Pittsburgh Pirate ace Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres allegedly while tripping on LSD.  The video below is an animated short film by James Blagden about the game, “Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No”, features narration in Ellis’ own voice, taken from a 2008 NPR interview.

From Wikipedia:

Self-reportedly under the influence of LSD, Ellis threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres 2-0 on Friday, June 12, 1970 in the first game of a doubleheader at San Diego Stadium. The Pirates flew to San Diego on Thursday, June 11 for a series against the Padres. Ellis reported that he visited a friend in Los Angeles and used LSD “two or three times.” Thinking it was still Thursday, he took a hit of LSD on Friday at noon, and his friend’s girlfriend reminded him at 2:00 PM that he was scheduled to pitch that night. Ellis flew from Los Angeles to San Diego at 3:00 PM and arrived at San Diego Stadium at 4:30 PM; the game started at 6:05 PM.

Ellis threw the no-hitter despite being unable to feel the ball or see the batter or catcher clearly. Ellis said his catcher Jerry May wore reflective tape on his fingers which helped him to see May’s signals. Ellis walked eight batters and struck out six, and he was aided by excellent fielding plays from second baseman Bill Mazeroski and center fielder Matty Alou.

Ellis later recounted:

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. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate. 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.

Ellis reported that he never used LSD during the season again, though he continued to use amphetamines.

Assessing Ellis’ LSD Claim:

Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Press believes Ellis’ version of events that day, although he did not witness the game in person. Smizik was the reporter who first broke the story. Bill Christine, also of the Pittsburgh Press, does not believe Ellis’ claim and was at the game that day. Christine was a beat reporter who “practically lived with the team that year”. Christine said that he did not notice anything unusual, and says that if Ellis had reported to the stadium only 90 minutes before his scheduled start, reporters would have been told. John Mehno, a reporter who had “extensive interactions” with Ellis over his career, was skeptical about many stories told by Ellis, including the LSD no-hitter. Mehno said that he has not found a teammate who would corroborate the story. However, one of his close friends, Scipio Spinks, a pitcher for the Astros, has said he has no doubt Ellis was telling the truth about his LSD use as he was very familiar with Dock’s drug habits, including the use of LSD.

The Dock Ellis Legend

See ESPN’s The Long Strange Trip of Doc Ellis

He was a 1970s sports icon, outspoken and controversial, loathed and adored. Charles Barkley with a touch of Ozzie Guillen. Ellis pitched in an All-Star Game. Was a World Series champion. He played 10 major league seasons, won 138 games and was a key member of the 1976 New York Yankees. He was a husband, a brother, an uncle and a father. He later became a drug counselor, working with addicts, inmates and troubled youth.

Since our original post, a Kickstarter-funded documentary has been released No No: A Dockumentary and is available online.

FB Page: No No: A Dockumentary (about Dock Ellis)

Year Age Tm W L ERA
1968 23 PIT 6 5 2.50
1969 24 PIT 11 17 3.58
1970 25 PIT 13 10 3.21
1971 ★ 26 PIT 19 9 3.06
1972 27 PIT 15 7 2.70
1973 28 PIT 12 14 3.05
1974 29 PIT 12 9 3.16
1975 30 PIT 8 9 3.79
1976 31 NYY 17 8 3.19
1977 32 TOT 12 12 3.63
1977 32 NYY 1 1 1.83
1977 32 OAK 1 5 9.69
1977 32 TEX 10 6 2.90
1978 33 TEX 9 7 4.20
1979 34 TOT 4 12 5.84
1979 34 TOT 3 7 5.77
1979 34 TEX 1 5 5.98
1979 34 NYM 3 7 6.04
1979 34 PIT 0 0 2.57
12 Yrs 138 119 3.46
162 Game Avg. 14 12 3.46
W L ERA
PIT (9 yrs) 96 80 3.16
TEX (3 yrs) 20 18 3.82
NYY (2 yrs) 18 9 3.07
NYM (1 yr) 3 7 6.04
OAK (1 yr) 1 5 9.69
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/23/2015.
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