Animated Video: Dock Ellis Throws a No-Hitter Against the Padres While Tripping on LSD (1970)

For a sport obsessed with sta­tis­ti­cal aver­ages, base­ball seems to thrive like no oth­er on out­ra­geous anec­dotes and sin­gu­lar char­ac­ters. One of those char­ac­ters, pitch­er Dock Ellis, had a drug-fueled run in the 70s with the Pitts­burgh Pirates, claim­ing that he almost nev­er pitched a game sober, includ­ing sev­er­al Nation­al League East Cham­pi­onships and a 1971 World Series win. The drugs even­tu­al­ly became too much and he got help, but they gave Ellis his career best anec­dote, the sto­ry he tells in the short film above, “Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No.” It’s ani­mat­ed by James Blag­don from an inter­view Ellis gave to Don­nell Alexan­der and Neille Ilel that aired on NPR in March of 2008.

In June 1970, Ellis took a day off, dropped acid at the air­port and, “high as a Geor­gia pine,” checked into a friend’s girlfriend’s house to enjoy the rest of his trip. He woke up two days lat­er, still trip­ping, went to the sta­di­um, took some stimulants—which “over 90% of the league was using,” he says—and got to work, pitch­ing a no-hit­ter against the San Diego Padres. “I didn’t see the hit­ters,” Ellis says, “all I could tell was whether they were on the right side or left side.” Above, his col­or­ful nar­ra­tion gets a full com­pli­ment of sound effects and day-glo excla­ma­tions. (We also see allu­sions to Ellis’ oth­er sto­ried antics, like appear­ing on the mound in curlers and bean­ing oppos­ing play­ers with fast­balls.) “It was eas­i­er,” he says, “to pitch with the LSD because I was used to med­icat­ing myself.” In this instance at least, the meds were mag­ic.

The short film pre­miered at Sun­dance and film fes­ti­vals world­wide in 2010, and the Dock Ellis leg­end has only grown since. The same inter­view become part of Beyond Ellis D, a “mul­ti­me­dia book” for iPads devel­oped in 2012 by Don­nell Alexan­der and ani­mat­ed by Hei­di Per­ry. (See Part 1, “Super­fly Spit­ball,” above.) In an essay for Dead­spin, Alexan­der laments that Ellis—an out­spo­ken crit­ic of racism in baseball—has been large­ly reduced to the LSD no-hit­ter, which he calls “a short take on a big life.” While it’s a hell of a good sto­ry, Alexan­der also sees Ellis “on a con­tin­u­um with Jack­ie Robin­son” (who advised him to tone it down), “a black ballplay­er strad­dling the reserve-clause era and the arrival of free agency, a man who brought many of the old ways with him into baseball’s new, Day-Glo epoch.” Ellis—who died in 2008 of liv­er fail­ure at age 63 after years as a drug counselor—certainly lived up to the hype. His wild life and career get a full treat­ment in the doc­u­men­tary No No, which just screened at Sun­dance this past month. Watch the film’s trail­er below.

via The Paris Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

Errol Mor­ris’ New Short Film, Team Spir­it, Finds Sports Fans Lov­ing Their Teams, Even in Death

This is What Oliv­er Sacks Learned on LSD and Amphet­a­mines

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness


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