Today is the 47th anniversary of Dock Ellis throwing a no-hitter while on acid.
As I’ve said several times in the past, the wonder and majesty of Ellis’ accomplishment is not about how weird and crazy it is that a dude who was as high as a kite tossed a no-hitter. I mean, yes, that’s amazing and amusing, but it’s easy to make drug jokes and because of that they’re kind of cheap.
No, my takeaway from the Ellis LSD no-hitter has always been a lesson about how to approach life when you’re really not prepared for it.
Ellis could’ve begged out that day. Said his arm was sore or that he was tired or claimed he had flu-like symptoms. Maybe if his mind was slightly more clear than it was he might’ve. If so, Danny Murtaugh could’ve had Luke Walker or Bruce Dal Canton or someone make a spot start. It probably would’ve been the most prudent course. But for whatever reason he didn’t. He hopped a flight and made it to the ballpark just in time, took the ball and did his best. It was far from the prettiest no-hitter ever. Ellis walked eight guys, hit a dude and allowed three stolen bases, but he got the job done.
Ellis’ mind was obviously and understandably not completely on his task on June 12, 1970, but that happens to all of us sometimes too, right? We don’t get a pass for showing up impaired like Ellis did, of course, but for whatever reason, we all approach our day while at something less-than-our best from time to time. Unprepared. Distracted. Sick. Just off our game. And, yeah, most of the time when that happens, the results sort of suck.
But the universe isn’t fair and sometimes it smacks us down even when we deserve better. Dock Ellis went 11-17 the year before his LSD no-hitter. I bet on at least one of those days in 1969 he showed up to the park totally prepared. Got a great night’s sleep, ate a healthy breakfast and had a well thought-out game plan for the opposing lineup. And I bet he got crushed all the same. Same thing happens to us sometimes too: great preparation, awful results.
Which makes days like Dock Ellis’ day on June 12, 1970 so inspirational. It reminds us that, sometimes, we are able to fight through whatever is clouding our mind or inhibiting our body and sometimes things work out OK. Sometimes fate or chance allows us to prevail even when we probably shouldn’t. Sometimes, either randomly or by design, the cosmos balance out the scales a little bit. When we remember that, it allows us not to sweat it too much if we get smacked down despite our best efforts or to worry too much if we approach a day at something less than our best. Don’t despair: it may just work out.
Anyway, that’s what I think about when I think about Dock Ellis tossing a no-hitter on LSD. That and a couple of songs and a video which are a great way to waste some time today: