...that the late, great Dock Ellis, synapses and senses percolating under the combined effects of LSD and Dexamyl, threw what was probably the only psychedelic no-hitter in major league history, beating the Padres 2-0 on a rainy evening in San Diego. A no-hitter is an outstanding achievement in its own right; but pitching one under the influence of acid is a whole 'nother thing entirely. Some folks have even called Dock's LSD no-no the greatest athletic feat of all time, and I'm not entirely inclined to disagree.
While doing interviews to promote Big Hair & Plastic Grass, I've been asked several times if I think Dock actually DID pitch the game while tripping. The question initially took me aback, because, well, if you know anything about baseball in the 70s, you know that plenty of players were experimenting with drugs during this period. And if you know anything about Dock, you know that he was a free spirit who enjoyed the hell outta his drugs and booze, at least until he got sober in the 80s.
Plus, other than a little extra notoriety, Dock didn't have a whole lot to gain from the revelation. He'd kept it a secret during his playing days, even claiming in the original printing of Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball that he'd been drunk at the time; but by the mid-80s, when it was clear that the Lords of Baseball weren't going to let him back into the game at any significant level, there was no longer any harm in telling the truth. While Dock did make a little extra cash in the few years before he died selling a limited number of autographed baseballs emblazoned with his signature and "I pitched a no-hitter on LSD" (I would have loved to buy one myself, but I was flat broke at the time), it's not like he got rich off the story.
But for those of you who still doubt it, consider this: For all the wildness of his ways, Dock was a control pitcher who averaged just under 3 walks per his 12-year big-league career, and it wasn't at all unusual for him to throw a complete game without walking a single batter. But on June 12, 1970, Dock walked eight Padres, and plunked another one — by far the wildest performance of his entire career. In other words, something was up with him that day.
As to whether or not it's even possible to pitch a no-no on acid, well, I'm sure I couldn't, and you probably couldn't either. But a man who had spent a large portion of his life honing the repetitive mechanics of his pitching motion — and had quite a few prior experiences with LSD — probably wouldn't find it that difficult to get on with the task at hand, just as musicians like Jimi Hendrix had no problem going onstage and playing while tripping. If you're already in the zone, even the most surreal hallucinations can't distract you from your mission.
One question I don't know the answer to: Does footage of the "Ellis, D" no-no exist? As Time magazine put it a few years back, "If you're looking for footage of the fabled game, you're not going to find it — no tape has ever surfaced, and Major League Baseball hasn't rushed to dig through its archives for documentation of the psychedelic affair." There have been several petitions floating around the internet, including this one, signed by fans demanding to see it, but so far to no avail. (Though frankly, I'd be even more interested in watching the post-game interview.) CORRECTION: As Scott Crawford just reminded me, HBO Sports apparently DOES have a copy of the videotape, according to Keven Mcalester's very fine 2005 article from the Dallas Observer. Hmmm...
In the meantime, though, at least we've got this amazing animated short to watch, narrated by Dock himself. If you've never seen it before, do yourself a favor and carve 4 and a half minutes out of your busy day to soak it in. I've watched it so many times at this point, I'm almost ready to call it my favorite baseball film of all time — next to, of course, The Bad News Bears.