The 2019 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is in the history books. But in 1971, the Midsummer Classic made its own history as it was the first and only time two Black pitchers faced off in the game.
Dock Ellis, a standout pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Vida Blue (pictured) a star for the Oakland A’s, represented the National League and American League respectively. Although Ellis was a great pitcher, the NL was stocked with many talented slingers.
However, Ellis, by way of his outsized personality, managed to get Sparky Anderson, the NL All-Star coach, to name him a starter after famously telling reporters “Ain’t no way they gonna start two brothers.”
The quip worked and Ellis, who is infamous for his LSD-fueled no-hitter, was reportedly drunk at the mound for the game.
The 1971 contest featured a bevy of legends like Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron, and more. The AL won the game 6-4 with Robinson named as the game’s MVP. It was the lone victory for the AL in the ‘70s.
Ellis retired from the game in 1980 and entered treatment for his drug and alcohol abuse, becoming a notable drug counselor in his later years. He died in 2008 after complications from cirrhosis.
Blue now works as a baseball analyst in the Bay Area.
PHOTO: Randy Stern
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