Ellis, D: The Legendary No-Hitterposted on 4/16/13
Seventy years ago today there was a major scientific discovery made in the field of Being Awesome. On April 16, 1943, a Swiss chemist named Albert Hoffman accidentally ingested LSD-25, a synthetic drug that he had created five years prior to experiment with for pharmaceutical research. He quickly realized something was unusual about his mental state which he described as a “not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination”.
After taking another dose to confirm the effects of this mind-altering drug, Dr. Hoffman published a report detailing his discovery of these hallucinogenic properties. The drug did not become widely used in a recreational capacity until the 1960s when Timothy Leary, and other figures of enlightenment, began to extol its virtues. LSD ( also known as Acid) was made illegal in the United States in 1965 because of the negative reactions some people have to the use of this drug.
Five years after the drug had been outlawed, there was one extraordinary gentleman whose use of LSD sparked a magical event in major league baseball. Dock Ellis was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1970 season. He was known for his boisterous personality and indulgence in controlled substances. On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis was in California with his team for a series of games against the San Diego Padres. The team had flown in the night before and Ellis went to go visit a friend of his in Los Angeles. Because he was still in the midst of a drug-fueled haze the next day, Ellis had forgotten that he was supposed to be pitching that evening.
During his acid trip, a friend handed Ellis the local newspaper which announced the Pirates/Padres game taking place at 6pm. He rushed to the stadium just in time to get in uniform and take the mound. Despite being under the influence of LSD, or perhaps because of it, Ellis managed to pitch a no-hitter in the game against the Padres. According to Ellis, the Pirates’ catcher Jerry May put reflective tape on his fingers which enabled the high-as-a-kite pitcher to see May’s signals. Over the course of nine innings, Ellis walked a total of eight batters and struck out six.
Although rumors of his enhanced performance had circulated for a while, Ellis did not confirm the psychedelic truth of that infamous game until 14 years later. In 1984 he confessed to reporter Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he had in fact pitched the no-hitter game on acid. Originally he claimed that there were no illegal drugs involved in order to protect his career. As Ellis described that fateful game, “The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t… 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.”
Let us tip our baseball caps to this larger-than-life sports hero who successfully combined two of America’s favorite pastimes: baseball and rebellion. Dock Ellis’ miraculous feat is a true testament to the valuable contributions LSD has made to the human experience.