On This Date in Sports June 12, 1970

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In the first game of a doubleheader in San Diego, Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a no-hitter, as the Pirates blanked the Padres 2-0. Ellis who walked eight in the game later admitted he had taken LSD not realizing he was expected to pitch that night. In recounting his memories of the game, Dock Ellis imagined that President Nixon was the home plate umpire.

Born in Los Angeles on March 11, 1945, Dock Phillip Ellis Jr. made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1968 and became a mainstay in their rotation in 1969. In 1970 as the Pirates made a west coast road trip, Dock Ellis was off to a mediocre start at 4-4. On an off day before they were to play in San Diego, Ellis visited some friends in Los Angeles and began dropping acid. Waking up the next day, Dock Ellis thought it was still Thursday and took another hit of LSD before his girlfriend told him he had to get to San Diego to pitch in the first game of a Twi-Night Doubleheader and quickly got on a flight to make it to the game.

Leaving Los Angeles at 3:00 pm, Dock Ellis arrived at San Diego Stadium at 4:45 just a little over an hour before he was to take the mound in the first game of a doubleheader against the Padres. Ellis showed great stuff early but had trouble keeping it under control as he walked Steve Huntz and Nate Colbert in the first inning. In the second inning, the Pirates got on the board as Willie Stargell homered off Dave Roberts. After a clean second, Ellis again walked Huntz in the third inning continuing his wild ride into history. In the fourth inning Dock Ellis control problems continued as he hit Ivan Murrell but faced no consequence as Chris Cannizzaro popped up to catcher Jerry May. In the fifth inning, Ellis walked Dave Campbell and Steve Huntz for the third time put got Al Ferrara to bounce back to him, on a play in which turned into an adventure, due to the Pirates pitcher’s state of mind. In the sixth inning, Ellis walked Colbert and Cannizzaro but escaped without allowing a hit again by striking out Tommy Dean. Stargell hit a second home run in the seventh inning to make it 2-0 in favor of Pittsburgh. Ellis continued his no-hitter retiring the side in order in the bottom of the inning. In the eight, Dock Ellis pitched around a two-out walk to Ollie Brown to send the no-hitter to the ninth. In the ninth Cannizzaro flew out leading off the inning. Van Kelly batting for Tommy Dean grounded out to first for the second out. The no-hitter was than completed as Ed Spiezio was caught looking as a pinch hitter for Ron Herbel.

Dock Ellis battled substance abuse throughout his career, which lasted 12 years. After retiring, Ellis committed his life to getting sober and began to speak openly about his drug use during his career, including revealing that he was on acid when he tossed his only career no-hitter. Dock Ellis spent the rest of his life counseling other addicts, including regularly visiting prisons to lend a helping hand. However, the drug and alcohol abuse took their toll, as Dock Ellis died awaiting a liver transplant in 2008 at the age of 63.