Today is the 42nd anniversary of Dock Ellis throwing a no-hitter while on acid.
We could joke about that. Believe me, I know, it’s easy to make drug jokes. But for some reason I have always viewed the Ellis no-hitter as something that — while certainly amusing — says something more about life and baseball and just how crazy and by-a-thread most people’s existence is.
Ellis had no business throwing a no-hitter while tripping his face off. No one has any business doing anything in that state. But he did. And it all happened because he was just completely unprepared. He mixed up the off-days on the Pirates’ schedule, took substances athletes should not be taking and ultimately ran into that game with reckless, hopeless, mind-addled abandon. And it worked somehow.
We shouldn’t glorify that, exactly, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and saying “damn,” and then giving a long, low admiring whistle. May all of us have a day go that well when, by all rights, it should go disastrously.
There are at least two other people who think about the Ellis no-hitter in this way, and they’re worth reading/listening to again. The first one is Will Leitch who wrote this about it on the occasion of Ellis’ passing three and a half years ago:
The world is a crazed, nonsensical place, mostly random, confused, chaotic, numbing. We search for reason wherever we can find it. And then, out of the nether, someone throws a no-hitter on LSD, and we realize that there is so much we do not understand, so much that will always elude, so much with a strange beauty that’s impossible to comprehend.
The second is Todd Snider. Who wrote a song about it. A ballad for a man who was unprepared:
Happy Dock Ellis Day, Dock. On whatever plane it is you currently inhabit.