Major league pitcher Dock Ellis became a household name for various reasons aside from his prodigious talent on the mound. Ellis, who later in life became a drug counselor, is perhaps best known for pitching a no-hitter game while high on LSD.
Dock Phillip Ellis Jr. was born March 11, 1945 in Los Angeles, Calif. Raised primarily in the city of Gardena, Ellis struggled with drinking and drugs as a teenager. While at Gardena High, he starred as a basketball player but refused to play for the school’s team because a player once referred to him as a “spearchucker.” According to one account, Ellis was forced to play his senior year for Gardena High after he was caught smoking marijuana in the school and facing expulsion if he didn’t join the team.
While in junior college, Ellis was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and placed with its minor league farm team. Ellis’ fiery attitude translated well to his pitches but also with altercations away from the game. During one minor league game, he took a bat into the stands to confront a racist heckler.
Throughout his career Ellis maintained a defiant stand against racism. He played on a semi-pro team featuring future MLB players such as Bobby Tolan, Dave Nelson, Bob Watson and Reggie Smith, among others. As he developed his pitching game, Ellis continued to abuse drugs, namely amphetamines. In fact, Ellis told reporters and writers that he rarely pitched a game without the performance-enhancing pills. However, it was his June 12, 1970 no-hitter game while pitching for the Pirates against the San Diego Padres while high on LSD that remains legendary to this day.
Ellis claims he couldn’t feel the ball and that the reflective tape from his catcher calling signals was the only way he knew what pitches to throw. The revelation of the acid trip game didn’t come out until 1984, four years after Ellis retired. However, skeptics still believe that Ellis’ LSD no-hitter is nothing more than a tall tale. After that game, Ellis said that he never used LSD in a game situation again.
Ellis was a flamboyant, outspoken player who once got into trouble for wearing curlers in his hair while in the bullpen. He challenged the MLB on his hairstyles, saying that white players were allowed to wear long hair pieces while Black players were prohibited from doing so.
Ellis played with the Pirates from 1968 to 1975, then the New York Yankees, the Oakland Athletics, the Texas Rangers, and the New York Mets before landing back with the Pirates in his final season. In 1976, he won the American League Comeback Player of the Year award while starring with the Yankees.