June 12, 1970: Today’s the 45th anniversary of Dock Ellis’s big LSD-fueled “no-no”

By on June 12, 2015

Forty-five years ago, on June 12, 1970, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis was unprepared to start that day against the San Diego Padres for one simple reason. He thought it was still June 11, and he was under the effects of LSD at the time and by his own admission was “as high as a Georgia pine.” He ended up pitching a no-hitter that day.

DOCK ELLIS ON LSD 6

Here’s a hysterical animation about Major League Baseball player Dock Ellis and his infamous 1970 no-hitter game against the San Diego Padres while under the influence of LSD.

DOCK ELLIS ON LSD 2

In celebration of the greatest athletic achievement by a man on a psychedelic journey, No Mas and artist James Blagden proudly present the animated tale of Dock Ellis’ legendary LSD no-hitter.  In 136 years of baseball history, only 276 no-hitters have been recorded. Dock is the only pitcher to ever claim he accomplished his while high on LSD.

If you haven’t seen it yet, we highly recommend watching the excellent documentary on Dock Ellis, No-No: A Dockumentary.

DOCK ELLIS ON LSD 1

Mental Floss has the story today about Dock’s no-no, 45 years ago:

Number 17 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ellis had developed a reputation for brazen behavior. He liked to wear curlers in his hair because Major League Baseball management didn’t want him to. He was outspoken in matters of race, once remarking that managers would never allow “two brothers” to start in an all-star game. Jackie Robinson wrote him a letter encouraging his social consciousness while warning him that not everyone was going to like it.

Ellis was all right with that. He was a self-medicating athlete, popping stimulants before games and partying with cocaine and alcohol afterward. The substances either gave him an edge or took it off.

DOCK ELLIS ON LSD 5
Dock Ellis, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell accompanied by 3 gorgeous women back in the early 70’s

Playing on LSD wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but Ellis liked to work with what he had. Before the game in San Diego, Ellis had crashed in Los Angeles at the home of a friend, where he dropped tabs of acid. He woke to the sounds of the man’s girlfriend telling him he had to pitch that afternoon. He insisted the game was tomorrow. It was only when she showed him the sports page of the day’s newspaper that he believed her.

“What happened to yesterday?” he asked.

He caught a flight to San Diego, suited up, and in the clubhouse swallowed Benzedrines, a stimulant, to counter the effects of the LSD. Standing on the mound, he could barely identify the players in front of him. They were swinging bats, that much he knew, and sometimes they’d stand on the other side of home plate. Disoriented, he tried focusing on the reflective tape wrapped around the catcher’s fingers. One inning bled into the next. Everyone knew he was high on something. It wasn’t pretty—Ellis kept beaning batters and walking them—but pretty soon he realized he was looking at a no-hitter, or “no no.” Even when the pitcher isn’t tripping his face off, the chances of that are as low as 1 in 1,548 games.

The game might have seemed like hours, or seconds: Ellis would later say he lost all concept of time. But when it ended, the Padres hadn’t been able to touch him. He had pitched a no-hitter on acid.

(there’s more at the Mental Floss link)

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Dock Ellis died in 2008, age 63, of cirrhosis of the liver, after he’d left major league baseball and become a substance-abuse and prison counselor in the high desert town of Victorville, outside Los Angeles. He gave up drugs and alcohol when his son was an infant, afraid he would otherwise harm him.

Read Dan Epstein’s heartfelt obit for Dock Ellis here, at Dan’s excellent blog, Big Hair and Plastic Grass, named for his first book on 70s baseball, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball. He followed that one up with America in the Swinging ’70s and Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76. Both are published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press.

(h/t Mental Floss)

DOCK ELLIS ON LSD 4

About Bryan

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide and a dozen other websites and zines, most of them long gone. He’s also worked for over twenty years at reissue record labels, and penned scads of liner notes -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He is now somewhat reclusive and bides his time quietly in his dusty Miracle Mile hermitage in Los Angeles, CA.