The day Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-no while high on LSD
The Pirates defeated the San Diego Padres, 2-0, in the erratic no-hitter
On a misty, and somewhat windy day at San Diego Stadium on June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis had a feeling he was going to have a career afternoon.
“I just knew I was going to throw a no-hitter the way the fellows were playing behind me,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Charley Feeney after throwing a no-no in the Pirates’ 2-0 victory over the San Diego Padres in the first game of their doubleheader.
Fourteen years after the game was played, Ellis opened up about how he played nearly every game under the influence of LSD, including the famous no-hitter. Before he died in 2008, he sat down with several media organizations and documentaries to discuss the “LSD game.”
Willie Stargell gave the 25-year-old right-hander the run support he needed by hitting solo home runs off lefty Dave Roberts in the second and seventh innings. The second-inning homer went to the opposite side of the field, while the one in the seventh was a line drive to right field.
Bill Mazeroski had one of the best defensive plays in the game when he made a diving, back-handed grab to wipe out a base hit from pinch hitter Ramon Webster to lead off the seventh inning.
“I thought it was a base hit, but I dove and there it was in the glove,” Mazeroski told the Post-Gazette.
Said Ellis: “When I saw Maz dive, I knew he was going to get it.”
Ellis was erratic for much of the afternoon, walking eight, fanning six and hitting a batter. To this day, Major League Baseball has only released snippets of this game to the public, parts of which were seen in 2014’s No No: A Dockumentary.
It was the first no-hitter of the 1970 season, and it was the first and only one for Ellis. Although no Padres reached third base, three runners were able to steal because Ellis wasn’t holding the runners on the bags. The third-year veteran pitched nine frames, but only three of them were 1-2-3 innings, as Ellis walked two batters in the first and sixth innings.
“I once pitched a no-hitter for six and two-thirds innings in Chicago,” Ellis told Feeney. “I relieved Steve Blass two years ago and didn’t give up a hit from the second through the eighth.”
Pirates catcher Jerry May, who had never caught a no-no, told the Post-Gazette: “Dock had exceptionally good stuff tonight, but he had trouble controlling his breaking pitches. That’s why he walked so many.”
After the game, Ellis was the guest on a radio show, which cut into the team’s ability to celebrate his achievement as the second game of the doubleheader was nearly underway.
Ellis was a roommate of baseball great Roberto Clemente and was well-known for wearing his hair in curlers during pregame warm-ups — Ebony featured his “Superfly” hairstyle in 1973 — until commissioner Bowie Kuhn wrote Ellis saying he could not do so on the field.
After floating around in the minor league system since 1964, Ellis finally found his sweet spot in Pittsburgh and was part of the 1971 World Series champion Pirates. He started the ’71 All-Star Game for the National League and did battle against Oakland’s Vida Blue, which was a landmark occasion because it was the first time two pitchers of color started the Midsummer Classic.
Often considering himself the Muhammad Ali of baseball, Ellis was a vocal proponent of equality for players of color in the sport, free agency and calling out institutionalized racism within baseball.
Ellis was open about his drug use, and post-baseball he became sober and a counselor for drug addicts. Ellis died of cirrhosis in 2008.