War Hero: Dock Ellis

June 20, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Governor X

They just don't make 'em like Dock Ellis anymore and frankly, that's probably for the best. While assholes are not in short supply in modern Major League Baseball, few if any are clinging to their fragile sanity like Dock was.

Ellis got started young, refusing to play for a high school coach he claimed was racist. To be fair to Dock, it was the early 60s so there was a 50/50 chance the coach was a racist, but it was just the first of many perceived slights that threatened to send him to a rubber room. This guy didn't take shit, or imagined shit from anyone.

A few years later while in the minors, Dock hurled a bat into the stands in response to a racist heckler. We would only find out later the heckler was blind and was shouting anti-asian epithets, but who cares (OK, I may have made that up).

On 12 June, 1970, Dock pitched the greatest game of his career, no-hitting the San Diego Padres 2-0...while on acid. Ellis only revealed this after he retired, but he also added the awesome detail that the ball was talking to him that day, telling him which pitches to throw. With a revelation like that, I'm surprised more pitchers haven't opted to try hard drugs (Turk Wendell, I'm looking at you).

In 1971, Dock predicted he wouldn't be able to start the All-Star game against Vida Blue because baseball would never start "two soul brothers" in the same game. Baseball did.

Not to be kept down (or up in this case), Dock stepped it up and got into a scrape with a security guard in Cincinnati in 1972. The guard didn't believe this guy carrying a half empty bottle of wine was a ballplayer. Go figure. Dock flashed his world series ring, but the guard wouldn't budge. The incident was slated to go to court but later settled.

Ebony magazine ran a piece on ballplayers' hairstyles in August 1973, and Dock responded like any of us would have: he started wearing curlers on the field. The team didn't like it, so Dock fired back charging discrimination. He claimed it was a nefarious plot against him and him alone by the commissioner's office because they didn't crack down on Joe Pepitone's bad toupee as well. If the commissioner's office was as poorly run then as it is now, he may have been right.

By 1974, the constant oppression of Dock pushed him over the edge. Feeling his teammates were lacking heart and too easily intimidated, he decided to bean the Big Red Machine...the entire Big Red Machine. Before the game, Dock announced "We gonna get down. We gonna do the do. I'm going to hit these motherfuckers." He gave it the old college try, nailing Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Driessen. Tony Perez managed to dodge his attempts and walked. The next two pitches went right for Johnny Bench's head and the Pirates manager finally pulled Dock from the game. Given the umpires hastiness to toss players for throwing at people, you have to wonder if the guy behind home was asleep. With the hatred of Joe Morgan burning in my belly, I must say in my opinion, this was the crowning achievement of Dock's career.

Dock bounced around for awhile after his Pirates glory days, finally retiring after the 1979 season. He finished up with 138 wins and a career ERA of 3.46 - not too shabby. Today, at the age of 62, Dock spends his free time fighting racial injustice, real and perceived, marveling at "the colors", and talking to that god damned baseball from the Padres' game that still won't shut up 37 years later.

What a long strange trip its been.