While researching my film about Dock Ellis, "No No: A Dockumentary," I have unearthed an assortment of interviews with the former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, most of them just as entertaining as you’d imagine.
Dock claimed that he never pitched a game in the major leagues when he was not high, normally on greenies (Dexamyl), though he is probably better known for taking the mound while on LSD.
After he retired, Dock entered treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. He took up a second career as a drug counselor, and in coming clean about his past transgressions, he spoke of his drunken start in the 1971 All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit and his relationship with Reggie Jackson.
The '71 Midsummer Classic featured four Pirates players. Willie Stargell was an elected starter, and Dock was named the starting pitcher by National League manager Sparky Anderson. Roberto Clemente and Manny Sanguillen were reserves (although Sanguillen did not play), and Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh also served as a coach.
Dock's participation is memorable for two reasons.
First, he effectively goaded Anderson into starting him in the game. Vida Blue of the Oakland Athletics began the season phenomenally, having accumulated 17 wins going into the break, making him a shoo-in for the American League nod. The National League starter was far less certain. Dock was one of the league leaders at the time, with 14 wins. Only after he went to the press, stating that Sparky wouldn't start two "brothers," did he finagle a spot at the top of the NL rotation.
Also notable was the monster home run that Dock yielded to Reggie Jackson in the bottom of the third inning. Reggie's blast hit one of the light towers on the right-field roof of Tiger Stadium and was estimated to have traveled over 540 feet. Surprisingly, Dock batted earlier in the top of the third, a decision unlikely to be made by managers today.
Dock has also discussed a luncheon that took place earlier in the day, before the 1971 All-Star Game.
He said there was a container of orange juice at the table, and he spiked it with vodka, consuming only screwdrivers through the lunch. In Dock's words, he was "high as a Georgia pine," drunk and high on speed when he pitched that day.
After a rough third inning, Dock was removed in the fourth, subbed along with Willie Mays. As he told Donald Hall in his biography, he didn't stick around for the end of the game. He jumped in Willie's limousine and was gone.
Dock Ellis did not face Reggie Jackson again until 1976, when Jackson was on the Orioles and Ellis was a member of the Yankees. They faced off uneventfully early in the season, but then, on July 27, an Ellis pitch struck Jackson in the face. It has been presumed that the beanball was retribution for the All-Star Game home run five years prior. Dock repeatedly stated that it was not, although he claimed that Reggie "styled" on him when he trotted the bases in Detroit back in '71.
As Dock tells it, he was exchanging balls with his catcher, and his toss slipped, nearly hitting Baltimore shortstop Mark Belanger, who had his head down in the batter's box.
Reggie shouted from the dugout, "Why don't you hit a big so-and-so like me?"
Yankees catcher Thurman Munson approached the mound and asked Dock if he heard what his "brother man" had said. During his next at-bat, Dock worked Reggie in and out until he caught him leaning, smashed his glasses and sent the future Hall of Famer to the hospital.
Baltimore pitcher Jim Palmer retaliated later with a changeup he threw at Mickey Rivers. Palmer and Oriole manager Earl Weaver collected the brunt of the public criticism in the subsequent furor, which culminated in Congressional hearings and widespread press regarding "Beanball Wars" in baseball.
Ellis and Jackson united briefly on the 1977 Yankees, before Dock was traded to Oakland in late April.
When he found out they would be teammates, Dock called and said, "Reggie, you're on my team now. I want you to swing for the fences every time up. If you think somebody's throwing at you, let me know. I'll hit everybody on the other f---ing team."
Radice's film "No No: A Dockumentary" is in production and currently funding on Kickstarter.
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