Friday, June 11, 2010

It Was 40 Years Ago Today: Dock Ellis In The Sky With Diamonds

"One time I covered first base, and I caught the ball and I tagged the base, all in one motion and I said, "Oh, I just made a touchdown."
-- Dock Ellis

You Tube Video / No Mas Presents:

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Dock Ellis in His Own Words

on Weekend America, American Public Media

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From MLB Fanhouse:

Forty Years Later, Time to Celebrate Dock Ellis' LSD No-Hitter

The 40-year anniversary of Dock Ellis' no-hitter, famously pitched while he was on LSD, falls on Saturday, June 12. In honor of one of the most astonishing feats in baseball history, and the release of Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s by Dan Epstein, we bring you an excerpt from the book on Ellis:

Bowie Kuhn may have been appalled by Ball Four's tales of groupies and greenies, but the commissioner would have suffered a total cardiac if he'd realized what Dock Ellis was up to.

With the counterculture still on the rise in the wake of Woodstock, it was only a matter of time before it infiltrated the world between the foul lines -- and as befit a man whose name could be written out on a scorecard as "Ellis, D," the 25-year- old
Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher loved nothing better than to spend his off-days tripping on acid in his psychedelically decorated basement while cranking Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, and Iron Butterfly. But on the afternoon of June 12, 1970, just as his latest tab of Purple Haze was beginning to kick in, Ellis realized that he was actually supposed to be pitching in a few hours, in a ballpark 120 miles away.

The strange saga of Dock Ellis' LSD no-hitter actually began two days earlier, on Wednesday, June 10. The Pirates had just finished a series with the Giants in San Francisco and flown down to San Diego, where their four-game series against the Padres was scheduled to commence that Friday. A native of Los Angeles, Ellis decided to take advantage of his day off by dropping acid, renting a car and driving up to L.A. (apparently in that order) to see some pals. They spent Wednesday night smoking weed and drinking screwdrivers until the sun came up, whereupon Ellis finally crashed. Upon awakening, Ellis dropped another tab of acid; after all, he reasoned, he wasn't slated to pitch again until Friday. Unfortunately, as one of his friends soon informed him, it was Friday -- Ellis had completely slept through Thursday.

Somehow, Ellis' friend -- who also happened to be tripping -- managed to get the pitcher to LAX, where he caught a shuttle flight to San Diego. Arriving at the park about 90 minutes before first pitch, he popped several Benzedrine "white crosses" to try to even things out, and went to warm up in the bullpen.

Speaking to poet Donald Hall for his book,
Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball, Ellis recalled that the ball felt like a "very heavy volleyball," and that he figured he'd be lucky to last an inning.

Things got even weirder once he took the mound. The ball's size and weight kept changing, and at times Ellis couldn't make out his catcher, Jerry May, through the psychedelic fog -- but as long as Ellis could still see the reflective tape on May's fingers, he knew more or less where May's mitt would be.

For much of the game, Ellis had no idea what the score was, how many outs had been recorded, or how many runners were on base. He was wild, walking eight batters and hitting one, and the Padres -- who noticed that Ellis seemed oddly uninterested in holding runners at first -- stole three bases off him.

All Ellis cared about was throwing the ball "down the multi-colored path" to May.
Baseball superstition dictates that whenever a pitcher is in the process of throwing a no-hitter, his teammates must refrain from speaking to him in the dugout, lest they jinx his effort. Ellis, completely unaware that he was racking up consecutive hitless innings, mistook his teammates' respectful distance for silent disapproval of his acid-fried state.

To combat his encroaching paranoia, he concentrated on painstakingly removing the mud from his cleats with a tongue depressor, and avoided any eye contact with the Pirates' players or coaches.
Some sources claim that Pirates rookie Dave Cash committed a major faux pas by blithely informing Ellis halfway through the game that he was working on a no-hitter; others have said Ellis turned to Cash in the seventh and tempted fate with a shout of, "Hey look, I've got a no-no going!"

What's certain is that Ellis' concentration grew more laserlike as the game went on; after Willie Stargell put him up 2-0 in the seventh with his second solo shot off Padres pitcher Dave Roberts, Ellis allowed only one more baserunner over the three final innings. With two outs in the ninth, Ellis caught Padres pinch hitter Ed Spiezio looking on a 3-2 pitch, and baseball's only LSD-assisted no-hitter was in the bag, man.


Excerpted from "Big Hair and Plastic Grass" by Dan Epstein. Copyright © 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, LLC.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Historically true to form and predictably enough, the Pirates are in full June Swoon mode.

The Pirates are in last place, 14 games under .500 and spiraling fast. They've lost five straight and are 3-11 in their in their last 14 games.

Tonight, they begin interleague play, which has been an abysmal sinkhole for the franchise. Since interleague play began, they're the worst at it. So, even as they continue on a pace to lose 108 games, it might get worse from here on out.

Like Pirates fans everywhere, we've been asking -- pleading -- what is management waiting for? Why are they waiting to call up Pedro Alvarez?
One possible answer -- ugly and disturbing as it may be -- is raised by the Post-Gazette's Bob Smizik this morning:

"The Pirates are looking for a PNC Park debut for Alvarez and the additional ticket sales that would mean. ... what other explanation is there for Alvarez still playing at Indianapolis?"

That notion is so ridiculous and absurd that it never occurred to Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, naive as we are.
It rings true, however, and it is so-o-o-o Pirates.

They're keeping Alvarez in Indianapolis so they can sell tickets for his major league debut at PNC Park.

Yeah, probably.

That's the only conclusion that makes sense, though it makes no sense at all in the pure baseball sense. Otherwise, he would be on a plane to Detroit and in the starting lineup at third base tonight against the Tigers. He's done more than enough in AAA, as Smizik points out:

"Alvarez is tearing up the International League. He drove in 30 runs last month. He’s hitting over .400 this month. The problem he had with left-handed pitching earlier in the season has disappeared. He was batting .322 against lefties before last night. He was third in home runs and RBIs in the International League.

"What makes it all the more obvious that the Pirates should recall Alvarez is the almost total lack of production they’re receiving from current third baseman Andy LaRoche.

After an excellent start, LaRoche has been abysmal. Since April 28, he’s batting .175 (21 for 120). He’s driven in seven runs during that span and has hit one homer -- on May 4. There is no reason for the Pirates to continue to play him with Alvarez waiting.

"Just about anyone would be an upgrade over LaRoche, but Alvarez has the potential to be a major middle-of-the-lineup force for the Pirates. That's why they took him with the second pick in the 2008 draft. That's why they paid him a $6 million bonus to sign. He has the look of a 3-4-5 hitter. With the Pirates, he could start off hitting sixth, behind Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit, to lessen some of the pressure on him."