Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dock Ellis, 1945 - 2008

One of Keith's Dock Ellis cards - 1975Dock Ellis passed on last weekend after battling cirrhosis, and there's been much tribute paid on the Internet. Ellis was a starting pitcher who mostly played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 70s. He's most famous for pitching a no-hitter against the Padres while on acid, but he's also known for purposefully beaning the starting line-up of the Cincinnati Reds in 1974 to motivate his team to win. Ellis was pulled from the game before he could nail Johnny Bench in the head, but he managed to wallop Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen before management stepped in. His team did go on to win a few games afterwards but no one's proven that his methodology was the key factor in getting the wins.

If you read his book, "Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball"co-written with Poet Laureate Donald Hall, you'll be amazed at how much racism was a part of 70s baseball. Ellis was was incapable of letting anyone think they could get away with making him feel inferior. He used his anger in interesting and often constructive ways to fight the ugly fight. I'm glad he got it down on paper because that's quite a hidden history.

He got sober after his baseball days were over and worked as a drug counselor at prisons and with youth groups to help other men have better lives. He gave a lot of himself.

Cardboard Gods has a great write-up and lots of links about Dock Ellis.

Barbara Manning's Dock Ellis (performed with the SF Seals on their 3-song EP, "Baseball Trilogy") celebrates all his career milestones, LSD-enhanced and beyond. She and I made a music video of this song with tons of low-budget psychedelic visual effects. If I can get it digitized from video, I'll post it. Dock Ellis was an indie rock icon, for sure.

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