Athletes are the best at what they do. That is by no means a controversial statement and – more often than not – it extends beyond their sport of choice. For those who live by the mantra of, ‘work hard play harder’ there are few among us that can match the sheer ambition of these physical freaks of nature. With a short glance at the highlight reel, we can look back to that time Andre the Giant drank 16 bottles of wine in four hours and took on 20 men in the ring. Or the better part of Tim Raines career as he reportedly took cocaine that he hid in his uniform each time he stepped onto the field (in the outfield who could blame him).
Baseball players, in particular, are no strangers to hours of hustle coupled with excessive celebration. The best among them is the legend that Hall of Famer, Wade Boggs drank 64 beers on one cross-country flight. Boggs recently confirmed to Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia that it was 107 beers, or as he put it, “a few Miller Lites,” but that’s beside the point.
Of all of these cases, only one truly stands out as an epic battle of mind and body. It’s the story of Dock Ellis as told in a short film by James Blagden called Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No; A no-hitter played entirely on acid.
That’s right, in 1970 Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the San Diego Padres, and he did it while tripping balls.
With a free day between him and the next game, Ellis decided to do what any responsible psychonaut would and took that time off to trip. The only problem is, he made the common mistake of many a trip-faring individual does and lost track of time. Given Ellis’ own account, he took a second hit early the next morning which would have taken his psychedelic experience well into game time.
Television footage for the game doesn’t seem to be available. If footage did exist, we could decipher whether he was acting as erratically as he claims because, as Ellis says, he refused to catch the ball; which seemed to change size throughout the game as it came back at him from the catcher.
This and his habit of telling tall tales has caused many sports reporters to cast doubt on whether he really played the game on LSD. But one reporter is squarely on Ellis’ side.
“I have no doubt that Dock was on acid that day,” Bob Smizik, a former sports reporter for the Pittsburgh Press told Deadspin. Despite not having been there on gameday, Smizik was the reporter who Ellis broke the story to in an interview years later.
In a piece Smizik wrote in 1984, psychologist Dr. Maurice Cerul also believes that it absolutely could have been done. “If he had a good trip he could have done his task without problems. As a matter of fact, he could have performed even better.” For the record, I too believe it’s entirely possible, but Smizik cites the fact that Ellis had a history of tolerance with illicit substances. The all-star pitcher did, after all, die in 2008 form cirrhosis of the liver.
Ellis was apparently an outlier when it came to psychedelics, claiming that over 90 percent of the league’s drug of choice was Dexamyl (otherwise known as speed).
In the original version of his book, In the Country of Baseball, (published while he was still a New York Yankee) Ellis claims he was drunk and sobered up with coffee that day. In later versions, however, the book matches his original story.
Doubters who count themselves among the ranks of teammates and observers still claim that Ellis’ tendency to tell tall tales means he never really did it. But it’s also likely, as Ellis claims, that they have no idea what an acid trip entails.
“The opposing team and my teammates, they knew I was high,” Ellis says in the mini-doc, “but they didn’t know what I was high on. They had no idea what LSD was other what they see on tv with the hippies.”
True or not, Ellis says that LSD was necessary to him, and not just as a performance enhancer. The pressures put on him during that game and throughout his career lead to his extensive consumption. Something more and more athletes are reporting.
“I was easier to pitch with the LSD because I’m so used to medicating myself. That’s the way I was dealing with the fear of failure. The fear of losing, the fear of winning; it was part of the game.”