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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Former major league pitcher Dock Ellis dies

Damn…one bad trip.

Dock Ellis, the former major league pitcher best remembered for his flamboyance and social activism as a member of the great Pittsburgh Pirates teams of the 1970s, died Friday of a liver ailment in California, his former agent, Tom Reich, confirmed. Ellis was 63.

Ellis spent 12 years in the majors with Pittsburgh, the New York Yankees, Oakland, Texas and the New York Mets. He retired in 1979 with a record of 138-119, but was best known for several colorful incidents on and off the field.

... “Dock Ellis was my first client in baseball, and he gave me as much joy as anybody outside of my family,” Reich said. “He was so unique. He was viewed by some people as an outlaw, but he was far from that. He was so ahead of his time. He was so intuitive and smart and talented and independent. And he wasn’t about to roll over for the incredible prejudices that existed at the time.

“He was a very special person and he had an absolute army of fans and friends. He was at the cutting edge of so many issues, and he never backed down. I was proud to be his friend and stand with him.”

Repoz Posted: December 20, 2008 at 05:13 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, mets, obituaries, pirates, rangers

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. frannyzoo Posted: December 20, 2008 at 05:26 AM (#3034523)
I'm a little less alive now, knowing that Dock Ellis has died. Like one of those kilometer signs on the highway of mortality.
   2. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: December 20, 2008 at 05:29 AM (#3034524)
:(
   3. Esoteric Posted: December 20, 2008 at 05:42 AM (#3034526)
Is it weird that the first thing I thought of was our own BTF poster Dock Ellis on Acid?
   4. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: December 20, 2008 at 06:00 AM (#3034530)
Wow. Time for me to finally read the book he did with Donald Hall. Talk about an unlikely pairing...
   5. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: December 20, 2008 at 06:24 AM (#3034532)
#3: Nope.
I thought of (as I always do when I hear his name) the SF Seals song about him - one of the (if not the) best baseball songs I've ever heard.
   6. FBI Regional Bureau Chief GORDON COLE!!! Posted: December 20, 2008 at 06:48 AM (#3034536)
best remembered for his flamboyance and social activism as a member of the great Pittsburgh Pirates teams of the 1970s

Here, I thought he was best known for tossing a no-no while tripping. Or maybe that's "social activism."
   7. Benji Posted: December 20, 2008 at 06:53 AM (#3034537)
Damn. I liked him as a Pirate. He was out there. A lot of fun. RIP.
   8. Flynn Posted: December 20, 2008 at 07:00 AM (#3034539)
As the one-time Dock LSD, I'm saddened to hear of my namesake's death. RIP.
   9. esseff Posted: December 20, 2008 at 07:10 AM (#3034541)
Here, I thought he was best known for tossing a no-no while tripping.


He was also known for being a part of this historic game
   10. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 20, 2008 at 07:14 AM (#3034542)
Even more than the LSD no-hitter, I remember the story about the Reds as recounted here.

"Perhaps Ellis’ most startling act occurred on May 1, 1974, when he tied a major league record by hitting three batters in a row. In spring training that year, Ellis sensed the Pirates had lost the aggressiveness that drove them to three straight division titles from 1970 to 1972. Furthermore, the team now seemed intimidated by Cincinnati’s "Big Red Machine." "Cincinnati will bullsh_t with us and kick our ass and laugh at us," Ellis said. "They’re the only team that talk about us like a dog." Ellis single-handedly decided to break the Pirates out of their emotional slump, announcing that "We gonna get down. We gonna do the do. I’m going to hit these motherf_ckers." True to his word, in the first inning of the first regular-season game he pitched against the Reds, Ellis hit leadoff batter Pete Rose in the ribs, then plunked Joe Morgan in the kidney, and loaded the bases by hitting Dan Driessen in the back. Tony Perez, batting cleanup, dodged a succession of Ellis’ pitches to walk and force in a run. The next hitter was Johnny Bench. "I tried to deck him twice," Ellis recalled. "I threw at his jaw, and he moved. I threw at the back of his head, and he moved." At this point, Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh removed Ellis from the game. But his strategy worked: the Pirates snapped out of their lethargy to win a division title in 1974, while the Reds failed to win their division for the first time in three years."

Nice job by reliever John Morlan, too. He deserved better than this.
   11. Jeff K. Posted: December 20, 2008 at 07:43 AM (#3034544)
I'd forgotten about that story. It's a great one.

As a fellow baseball fan and former dabbler in the hallucinogenic arts, I wish Dock a speedy trip to wherever the trip may go.

When I was a kid, I always got Dock Ellis confused with whichever player it was that saved a fan in the stands who was having a heart attack. Thinking about it just now, I thought the other guy was Doc Medich, but it was not. I did learn that Doc Medich had his medical license suspended two years ago for what sounds like writing himself prescriptions for oxycontin in the names of patients. So, who was the other guy? My Google powers are failing me.
   12. The Wilpons Must Go (Tom D) Posted: December 20, 2008 at 08:50 AM (#3034564)
Not that I needed to be prodded, but I feel a little bit older. His big smile in the picture taken after the no hitter says it all. RIP Dock.
   13. depletion Posted: December 20, 2008 at 08:58 AM (#3034567)
The game ess eff refers to had 9 starting black players for Pittsburgh, which had never occurred before.
   14. Phil Coorey is a T-Shirt Salesman Posted: December 20, 2008 at 09:28 AM (#3034572)
Is it weird that the first thing I thought of was our own BTF poster Dock Ellis on Acid?


YEAH - ME TOO

What a shame anyway - a true character
   15. AndrewJ Posted: December 20, 2008 at 11:12 AM (#3034587)
It was Dock's friend David L. Lander -- veteran MLB scout and TV's Squiggy on LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY -- who told Ellis to make public his whole dropping-LSD-and-no-hitting-the-Padres story. In case you were wondering.
   16. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: December 20, 2008 at 11:33 AM (#3034588)
oh man, this sucks so much :(
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 20, 2008 at 12:58 PM (#3034592)
The only problem with that story about the 1974 Reds game is that not only did the Reds lose that Great Beanball Massacre game, but after winning their next two they lost 7 out of their next 8. So as great a story about Dock Ellis as that is, it's pretty tough to argue that it had much to do with the Pirates' winning the division.

And BTW the Reds still managed to win 98 games that year, while the Pirates won 88. The Pirates' best strategy in 1974 was not being in the same division with the Dodgers.
   18. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 20, 2008 at 01:09 PM (#3034593)
I'm not surprised to hear this - Dock has been in poor health for a while - but I'm still sad. He was a good guy.

Along with the other stuff upthread, he was the one Pirate player who participated in the big fan protests that helped speed regime change in '07. So all Pirate fans should be grateful to him for that.
   19. The Robby Hammock District (Dan Lee) Posted: December 20, 2008 at 02:54 PM (#3034609)
Man, it seems like David Lander has been in the background of a lot of interesting and unique things: Dock Ellis's no-no, Twin Peaks, Spinal Tap (the Lenny and the Squigtones album was the first appearance of Nigel Tufnel), Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

As a one-time...as in exactly once...dabbler in (as Jeff called it) the hallucinogenic arts, the no-hitter on acid is still absolutely amazing to me. I could barely stand to be on a train with 20 or 30 people because I could hear all their conversations as clear as day. I would have lost my mind if it was 20,000 or 30,000 people.

Best conversation I overheard that night on the train: "You know what the most amazing thing about feet is?" "No, man, what?" "You never notice them, you know? It's like, they're there but until you hurt one of them, you never think about them."

It was a very deep observation to hear at 2AM while I was losing my mind.
   20. Gamingboy Posted: December 20, 2008 at 03:30 PM (#3034620)
Dock Ellis, he will be missed.
   21. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 20, 2008 at 03:56 PM (#3034632)
the Pirates snapped out of their lethargy to win a division title in 1974, while the Reds failed to win their division for the first time in three years."


The Reds won in 1970, 72, and 73. The Giants won in 1971.
   22. Babe Adams Posted: December 20, 2008 at 04:19 PM (#3034639)
The only problem with that story about the 1974 Reds game is that not only did the Reds lose that Great Beanball Massacre game, but after winning their next two they lost 7 out of their next 8. So as great a story about Dock Ellis as that is, it's pretty tough to argue that it had much to do with the Pirates' winning the division.


The Pirates actually continued to stumble until I think early/mid-July, when Bruce Kison more or less repeated Ellis's performance against the Reds, which set off an actual baseball fight. The Pirates had sleptwalk for a year and a half after the death of Roberto, but from that day they played .600 ball to reach 88 wins and take the division.

Guys like Kison and Ellis might not be the cure for the current Pirates, but, like chicken soup....
   23. aleskel Posted: December 20, 2008 at 05:09 PM (#3034654)
this is nothing, W. Mark Felt (aka, the real Deepthroat), died too. Come of think of it, did you ever see him and Doc Ellis in the same room?!
   24. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 20, 2008 at 05:10 PM (#3034655)
The only problem with that story about the 1974 Reds game is that not only did the Reds lose that Great Beanball Massacre game, but after winning their next two they lost 7 out of their next 8. So as great a story about Dock Ellis as that is, it's pretty tough to argue that it had much to do with the Pirates' winning the division.

The Pirates actually continued to stumble until I think early/mid-July, when Bruce Kison more or less repeated Ellis's performance against the Reds, which set off an actual baseball fight. The Pirates had sleptwalk for a year and a half after the death of Roberto, but from that day they played .600 ball to reach 88 wins and take the division.


That was the second game of a July 14th doubleheader you're talking about, and you're right, it began the Pirates' stretch drive to the division title.

Except that Kison didn't hit a single batter all afternoon, and he was taken out of the game after Ken Griffey led off the top of the seventh with a single. The fight you remember may have been caused when Jack Billingham of the Reds hit Kison, but that was back in the fourth inning. I guess what probably happened is that Billingham was retaliating at Kison for a series of brushback pitches, but again, no Reds' batters actually got hit.

(Damn, BB-Ref. is an amazing website.)
   25. bunyon Posted: December 20, 2008 at 05:33 PM (#3034667)
To add to the feeling old thing; I saw this and was deeply saddened because it seemed to me that Doc Ellis had passed way too young. Not that 63 isn't too young, but it's an entirely normal age at which to pass. I was thinking - for whatever reason - that he was in his 40s. I guess these guys don't age in mind after they retire from baseball.
   26. vortex of dissipation Posted: December 20, 2008 at 06:00 PM (#3034678)
I thought of (as I always do when I hear his name) the SF Seals song about him - one of the (if not the) best baseball songs I've ever heard.


Chuck Brodsky also wrote a song about him - "Dock Ellis's No-No".

I wonder how many players have multiple songs written about them?
   27. Anthony Giacalone Posted: December 20, 2008 at 06:15 PM (#3034684)
Rest in peace, Dock.
   28. Wilver Posted: December 20, 2008 at 08:44 PM (#3034744)
RIP Dock

Don't forget Dock hitting Reggie Jackson in the face in 1976 in retaliation for Reggie's ASG home run in '71. That is revenge served very cold.
   29. hardrain Posted: December 20, 2008 at 10:48 PM (#3034784)
#28 -- Yep....that's one of the reasons that Doc was always one of Billy Martin's pets....He loved him.
   30. Bruce Markusen Posted: December 21, 2008 at 12:49 AM (#3034855)
One of the great things about Dock is that he isn't remembered for just one thing; he was involved in so many incidents and notable achievements that everyone remembers him for something distinct.

In my case, I'll remember him for three different reasons:

a) he was a huge part of the 1971 world championship team, with a great first half that earned him the start in the All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium

b) he decided to wear hair curlers during pre-game workouts at Wrigley Field, shocking most of his teammates, his manager Bill Virdon, and the Commissioner

c) he pitched the no-hitter against the Padres on LSD

The latter point is especially significant because Ellis spent much of his post-playing career as a drug counselor, trying to get kids to avoid making the same mistakes that he did.

Eric Enders has a great story about meeting Ellis over at Baseball Toaster. Eric and some other guys from the HOF happened to run into him one day in Pittsburgh. They started talking, and Ellis, who had never met any of them previously, invited all of them to be his guests at the final game at Three Rivers Stadium. They had to decline the invite, but even the offer was pretty cool.
   31. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 21, 2008 at 01:00 AM (#3034866)
Don't forget Dock hitting Reggie Jackson in the face in 1976 in retaliation for Reggie's ASG home run in '71. That is revenge served very cold.

Does anybody remember which batter inexplicably barreled into Dennis Eckersley on a meaningless cover of home plate, then explained that he'd done it because Eckersley had hit him about a decade earlier, and he'd never had the chance to retaliate?
   32. Jeff K. Posted: December 21, 2008 at 01:38 AM (#3034881)
Re: #11 for anyone interested, Dial found that it was Doc Medich. For some inexplicable reason, that is not on Medich's Wikipedia page.
   33. BillyPrice Posted: December 25, 2008 at 09:10 AM (#3038141)
This is a great article about Dock: http://www.dallasobserver.com/2005-06-16/news/balls-out/

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