The Baseball Posts: Tossing A No-Hitter On Acid by Adam Bunch

Originally posted June 14, 2011:

It was the summer of 1970 and baseball, along with the rest of the Western world, was awash in a sea of pharmaceuticals. Ballplayers popped uppers like candy before every game. They say there was an open bowl of amphetamines in every clubhouse in the major leagues. Plenty of players did more than that, too: indulging themselves with pot, coke, whatever. And one of the most drug-friendly reputations of them all belonged to Dock Ellis, not just one of the best pitchers on the Pittsburgh Pirates, but in all of baseball. He popped pills before every start and partied hard in between them. He kept a room in his basement called "The Dungeon" where he'd hole up for days dropping acid and listening to Jimi Hendrix and Iron Butterfly.

That June, the Pirates flew out to San Diego for four games against the Padres. And since Ellis wasn't scheduled to pitch until the Friday, he figured he had plenty of time to head home to Los Angeles for a visit with his girlfriend and a friend of theirs. That week, the three of them got all fucked up, downing speed and screwdrivers and smoking pot. Then, after getting out of bed early one morning afternoon, Ellis dropped a tab of Purple Haze. His girlfriend was reading the paper. And it wasn't long before she'd noticed that the paper said he was pitching that day. It was Friday. Already. And since the game was the first half of a doubleheader, it started early. Ellis only had about four hours before he was expected to be pitching against major league hitters in a stadium more than a hundred miles away.

After that, Ellis doesn't really remember much for a while. There was a race to the airport, a flight and a cab ride. Next thing he knew, he was at the stadium in San Diego, high out of his mind, with no chance in hell that he was going to come down before the game started. He took some amphetamines to stabilize. Some Benzedrine from a fan in the stands. He prayed the drizzle would turn into rain so the game would be cancelled. And then, when it didn't, he headed out to the mound.

Now, Dock Ellis was one hell of a pitcher. But the baseball felt like a heavy volleyball. And then a balloon. And then a golf ball. There were times when the catcher disappeared entirely; the batter, too. "I chewed my gum until it turned to powder," he remembered later. "I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate." Ellis was a mess. He was throwing the ball all over the place. He walked eight guys. Hit another one. Loaded the bases at least a couple of times. Felt like leaping out of the way every time a ball was hit near him. But somehow, one inning after another, he kept getting guys out. And not one of them had gotten a hit.

He didn't even realize what was happening until the fifth inning. In the dugout, he avoided eye contact with his teammates, sure that they were on to him. He focused on cleaning the mud out of his cleats and didn't look up; not at them, not at the field, and not at the scoreboard. So he didn't see the big zero in the Padres' hits column. Inning after inning it stayed there, unchanged. Finally one of his teammates came up to him on the bench and told him what was going on — a brazen violation of one of baseball most serious unwritten rules: if you acknowledge a no-hitter while it's happening, you'll jinx it.

But that night, the jinx didn't work. Four innings later, Dock Ellis had pulled off one of baseball's rarest and greatest feats, pitching an entire game without giving up a single hit. And he'd done it all stoned off his ass.


Ellis told his story to the Dallas Observer, which you can read here. There's also a short documentary about it:

Image via Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.

The Baseball Posts are series of posts about, um, well, baseball. You'll find them all here. 

Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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