The Strange Case of MLB Pitcher, Dock Ellis

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Most people know I like baseball. I like the seeming improbability of a 22 ounce wood bat, connecting with a base ball traveling at 90MPH, resulting in the ball traveling 400 feet into the outfield.

That is, of all goes well.

I also like the way the ‘Boys of Summer’ look in their uniforms. The baseball player is the male archetype of athleticism and poise. An unattainable standard of masculine beauty to be admired from afar under the the bright summer sun.

Which brings me to the strange case of MLB pitcher, Dock Ellis.

Dock Ellis died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 63. Despite a long addiction to drugs and alcohol, Ellis managed to win 138 games in his career and carve out pennant winning careers with both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees.

But Ellis was perhaps best remembered for bizarre episodes on and off the field. In his 1976 biography, “Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball,” Ellis wrote while working for the Pirates, he had been drinking before he pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in May 1970. But it gets even better. Ellis admitted he had used LSD before the game. Not realizing that he would be pitching the opener of a doubleheader, he washed away the effects with amphetamines.

Ellis told The Los Angeles Times in 1985 that he began using drugs as a teenager, started to have alcohol problems while in the minor leagues, and “never pitched a game in the major leagues I wasn’t high.”

So, to the New York Yankees and their $225 million dollar payroll of spoiled brats who can’t seem pitch the team into the play-offs, listen up. Maybe the problem isn’t salary or free agency. Maybe it’s the absence of booze and acid made available to the players in the dugout?

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8 Responses to The Strange Case of MLB Pitcher, Dock Ellis

  1. Big Hank says:

    Great story. Dock Ellis was an original and as you know, in baseball, conformity is prized over the uniqueness of each player.

    Ellis’ record is interesting because his drug use seemed to enhance his pitching arm and not deter from it.

  2. D.R.Scott says:

    I don’t think the problem with the Yankees isn’t the lack of booze or drugs available. As usual, when rich kids play fantasy baseball with real players, what looks good on paper doesn’t translate into a cohesive or productive entity on the field.

    What the Steinbrenner Boys got is a upper-class boy’s club filled with hired guns wearing temporary pinstripes looking for one more big paycheck. What they don’t have is a team.

    That’s the difference between MLB and the NFL. There’s still accountability in football. Sure, you can hire a big-money player, but if he doesn’t produce, he’s gonna be a salary-cap dump the next season. In baseball, the salaries are guaranteed, so there isn’t that same level of commitment or intensity.

    When I see small-market teams like the Rays playing hard, it’s because those guys are still hungry, and they’re playing for a bigger payoff down the line. Unfortunately, rich baseball franchises like Boston, New York or Los Angeles wind up as retirement communities for either mercenaries or aging superstars who are going to leave the game sooner, not later.

    Are you ready for some football?

  3. Rachel says:

    Dock Ellis sounds like a genuine character. They should make a movie of his life starring Will Smith. I think the Yankees bloated payroll just got a whole lot bigger with the addition of CC Sabathia’s contract. They must print the money under Yankee Stadium.

  4. MacDaddy says:

    I never heard of the drugs, but I remember Doc Ellis.
    I remember him with the Yankees, being very competitive, especially with men on base. As I recall, he had fastball that he was not afraid to throw inside and a slider that was his out pitch.

  5. Woodcliffe says:

    My father-in-law mentioned Dock Ellis a few times.

    I grew up in Georgia, so I don’t recall hearing his name much. But this is a funny as hell story.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  6. Mauigirl says:

    Great story about Ellis. I wasn’t that familiar with him – a really colorful character! Sad he died so young – guess it was the after effects of all that booze and addiction.

    As for today’s Yankees….I think you may have something there. The Yankees back in the Mantle-Maris days were big boozers and they did very well!

    By the way, I agree with you on the look of baseball players. Football players always look like big hulks and I don’t find them at all attractive. But baseball uniforms are much more flattering!

  7. R.J. says:

    Dock Ellis was one of a kind. When he gave up that towering home run to Reggie Jackson in the ’71 All-Star Game, he vowed to get him back. He did…five years later when he threw at his head and broke Reggie’s glasses.

    And my Padres still suck.

  8. I see in your praise of baseball players you conveniently left out John Kruk and Cecil Fielder. 😉

    No one hates The Fucking Yankees more than I do save for maybe denizens of Bah-ston, but they added a legitimate offensive and defensive force yesterday. Hopefully the pressure will be so great, they implode.

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