Friday, September 19th, 2014
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1970 / San Diego

Performance Enhancement


dock.jpgWe flew into San Diego, and I asked the manager, Could I go home, because we had an off day. So he said, “Yeah.” So I took some LSD at the airport, because I knew where it would hit me—I’d be in my own, my little area, and I’d know where to go. So that’s how I got to my friend’s girlfriend’s house.

She said, “What’s wrong with you?” I said, “I’m high as a Georgia pine.”

The next day—what I thought was the next day—she told me, “You better get up, you gotta go pitch!” I said, “Pitch? What are you talking about, I pitch tomorrow, hell, what’re you talkin’ about.” Because I had got up in the middle of the morning and took some more acid.

She grabbed the paper, brought me the sports page and showed me—boom! I said, “Oh, wow! What happened to yesterday?” She said, “I don’t know, but you better get to that airport.”

Now this was in the ’70s and “greenies” was Dexamyl. That was the drug of choice back then, was a stimulant. Over 90 percent of the Major Leagues was using Dexamyl when I was playing.

When I got to the game, there was a lady down there in San Diego, used to always have the bennies for me—Benzedrine—which is another stimulant. I went out to the dugout and reached up, because she was standing over the rail—she always stood over the rail—and had a pretty little gold pouch. So I got the bennies, went on back in the clubhouse, and took them.

The game started and a mist started, a misty rain. So all during the game was a little mist. The opposing team and my teammates, they knew I was high, but they didn’t know what I was high on. They had no idea what LSD was other than what they see on TV with the hippies.

I didn’t see the hitters. All I could tell was if they were on the right side or the left side. The catcher put tape on his fingers so I could see the signals.

We had a rookie on the team at that particular time, named Dave Cash, and he kept saying after the first inning, he said “You got a no-no goin’”—a no-hitter. I said, “Yeah, right,” and I’d look…Then around the fourth inning he’d say it again. “You got a no-no going.” I look…“Yep.”

But I could also feel the pressure from other players wanting to tell him to shut up. It’s a superstition thing where you’re not supposed to say nothing if somebody’s throwin’ a no-hitter.

There were times when the ball was hit back at me, and I jumped because I thought it was coming fast, but the ball was coming slow. Third baseman came by and grabbed the ball and threw somebody out. I never caught a ball from the catcher with two hands, because I thought, That was a big ol’ ball! And then sometimes it looks small. One time I covered first base, and I caught the ball and I tagged the base, all in one motion and I said, “Ooh, I just made a touchdown.”

I didn’t pay no attention to the score, you know. I’m trying to get the batters out. And I’m throwin’ a crazy game. I’m hittin’ people, walkin’ people, throwin’ balls in the dirt—they going everywhere!

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, the fear of winning. It was part of the game, you know. You get to the Major Leagues, and you say, “I got to stay here, what do I need?”

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About the Author

Dock Ellis, from an interview. Ellis finished the 1970 season fourth in the National League for shutouts—with four—and the following season he went 19-9, pitching thirty-one games, eleven of them completely. He played eleven years in the Major Leagues, beginning and ending his career with the Pirates, with stints in-between on the Yankees, A’s, Rangers, and Mets. He collaborated with poet Donald Hall on the memoir, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball, published in 1976. Ellis died at the age of sixty-three in 2008.

That which the sober man keeps in his breast, the drunken man lets out at the lips. Astute people, when they want to ascertain a man’s true character, make him drunk.
Martin Luther, 1569
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