Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nerd History: Dock Ellis

With the baseball playoffs starting up this week, and with the Red Sox season effectively being a really bad nightmare, I'm reminded of one of the more bizarre baseball stories I've heard - Dock Ellis and his LSD-fueled no-hitter.

Dock Ellis was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was a character on a team with a lot of characters. As it stands, Ellis is a good pitcher - starting pitchers only pitch every fifth day, so there's a lot of downtime between starts. So, on an off day before what he thought was another off day, he drops acid with a friend of his. Friend wakes up in the morning, sees that Ellis is scheduled to pitch in the game that day, and rushes Ellis to the stadium.

Ellis, well...it was apparently an adventure for him:
“I didn’t see the hitters. All I could tell was if they were on the right side or the left side of the plate…. There were times when the ball was hit back to me and I jumped because I thought the ball was coming fast but it was coming slow… I caught the ball coming back from the catcher with two hands because it was a big old ball and I thought it was small… It was easier to pitch with the LSD, because I was so used to medicating myself. That’s the way I was dealing with the fear of failure–the fear of losing and the fear of winning.”
Ellis died in 2008, but this story has persisted, and is likely why most people know of him now, for better or for worse. The story was worthy of a Snopes mention and inspired a great ESPN piece on the man. It turns out that Timothy Leary may have been the LSD supplier, too.

Baseball is awesome because of so many weird feats and stories. To think that LSD is a factor in one of them is very fascinating to me.

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