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REMEMBER WHEN : Ellis' No-Hitter Against Padres Was High Drama

July 18, 1990|BOB WOLF

SAN DIEGO — It seems almost inconceivable, but Dock Ellis swears it's true.

On June 12, 1970, Ellis pitched a no-hit game for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a 2-0 victory over the Padres at San Diego Stadium. Fourteen years later, he revealed that he had done it while under the influence of LSD.

Ellis, 45, who lives in his native Los Angeles and counsels athletes about drugs, made the astonishing disclosure in a newspaper story four years after completing treatment at a rehabilitation facility in Wickenburg, Ariz., in 1980.

"I was really out to lunch that night," Ellis said by telephone recently. "Sometimes I saw the catcher (Jerry May), sometimes I saw the hitter, sometimes I didn't see either one. I would either see the glove or the catcher, but I really didn't know what was going on. I couldn't judge the velocity of my pitches.

"It wasn't anything I did on purpose. I missed a couple of days, and I lost a whole day, being under the influence. I didn't have to pitch. I could have said I was sick. But when I got to the ballpark, everything seemed just natural."

Ellis pitched his no-hitter in the opener of a doubleheader, which was played on a rare rainy night before a crowd of 9,903. He didn't hang around for the second game, which the Padres won, 5-2.

"It was party time in my hotel room," he said.

Ellis was unusually wild that night, walking eight Padres, hitting another and striking out six. This might have been a hint that the situation wasn't normal, since he generally had excellent control, but nobody picked up on it.

Al Oliver, who played first base for the Pirates and had two of the five hits off Padre left-hander Dave Roberts, recalled that none of Ellis' teammates suspected anything.

"Dock was always the same and always had the same look," Oliver said from Columbus, Ohio, where he owns Al Oliver Enterprises. "He was a great competitor, and I personally didn't see anything different in that game from the past.

"When I heard about it, my initial reaction was that only Dock could have done it. I wasn't shocked about it, although I was surprised it was LSD. I'm not that familiar with how LSD affects a person, but I understand that you have trouble standing up, let alone pitching a ballgame.

"Dock had the talent to get away with it, although not necessarily on a consistent basis."

Nate Colbert, the Padres' power-hitting first baseman of that era, noted that Ellis' normally unorthodox demeanor on the mound helped him keep his secret. Colbert now serves the Padres as a coach of their Riverside farm club and an off-season member of their community-relations department.

"Dock has always been a real live, active personality," Colbert said. "He acted the same in that game as he always did, and he had great stuff."

Ellis recalled that his drug problem dated all the way back to his days at Gardena High School.

"I did drugs from the time I was 14," he said. "The no-hitter was the only game I pitched on LSD, but I took greenies and diet pills, and I got into cocaine in the late '60s.

"I finally went in for treatment . . . 37 days. A week after I was discharged, I told my whole story (about his drug abuse, but not about the LSD no-hitter) in a press conference on a golf course in Phoenix.

"There were some smart-aleck questions, and I had to shut them up. I said to one guy, 'The only reason you ask me that is because you've done it.' He was one of those whippersnappers, and I put him in his place. Otherwise it went OK.

"I've been clean 10 years now, and I feel good about myself."

Last winter, Ellis, who is not much over his playing weight at 225, took time off to pitch in the new Senior League in Florida.

"I had seven saves and a 1.76 ERA," Ellis said. "I may go back."

On the subject of Ellis' rehabilitation, Oliver said, "I'm glad for him. He's a super human being. He's one of the few people I've ever met who can relate to anybody, whether it be the president of the United States or somebody on any other level."

Ellis, who has worked for several drug-rehabilitation agencies, is now a free-lance counselor, employed by agents whose clients need help. He also gives baseball clinics in conjunction with the medical community, as he did last week in Reno along with several other former major league baseball players.

"I've been hired by the group that represents (New York Yankee pitcher) Pascual Perez to be his counselor after the drug problem he had," Ellis said. "I work for different agents, and I travel a lot, not only to give counseling but to seek potential new clients.

"Drugs are still rampant in baseball, and the guys who take them are smarter than we were."

After graduating from high school, Ellis attended Los Angeles Harbor Community College in Wilmington before joining the Pirates' Batavia (N.Y.) farm club in 1964. The Pirates called him up during the 1968 season, and he stayed in the majors through 1979, compiling a record of 138-119. He had a 13-10 record the year he pitched his no-hitter and a career-best 19-9 the following year.

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