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Red Forman
09-04-2010, 08:13 PM
Per NY Times.....



For Ellis, a Long, Strange Trip to a No-Hitter


When Rich Harden of the Texas Rangers came off the disabled list last month to pitch six and two-thirds innings without allowing a hit, interrupted by his manager rather than the Minnesota Twins, it was a further devaluation of one of baseball’s most hallowed currencies: the no-hitter.

For those not named Nolan Ryan, the no-hitter is a rare and treasured event — consider that a Mets pitcher has never thrown one. This season, a perfect game allowed Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics to make a name for himself, at least for doing something other than shouting at Alex Rodriguez to get off his mound.

But this season, Braden is among five major league pitchers who have thrown no-hitters, not including the one that was broken up by umpire Jim Joyce. Another four potential no-hitters, including the one by Harden and three relievers, have been broken up in the ninth inning.

With a month remaining, baseball has not had so many no-hitters since 1991, when seven were thrown.

If it seems almost routine to throw a no-hitter now, then consider one that was not.

Forty years ago, Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates raised the degree of difficulty to new, well, heights. He threw a no-hitter with Richard M. Nixon calling balls and strikes and Jimi Hendrix, wielding a Fender Stratocaster instead of a Louisville Slugger, digging in at home plate.

Or at least that is what he thought while pitching under the influence of LSD.

Ellis walked eight and hit a batter but beat the Padres, 2-0, before 9,303 fans who turned up at San Diego Stadium on June 12, 1970, for the opener of a doubleheader.

“I do think it’s a singularly majestic feat,” said Chris Isenberg, who last year produced “Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No,” an animated short film by James Blagden on Ellis’s no-hitter. “I have one experience on acid, and it involved staying up 72 hours straight and nearly having a nervous breakdown. I can’t imagine pitching a no-hitter on it. It’s like a perfect game times a million.”

Ellis, who died of liver disease at 63 in 2008, was one of baseball’s iconoclastic figures during the 1970s, when he was a mainstay of the Pirates’ rotation when they won the 1971 World Series. He helped the Yankees to the 1976 World Series, earning the American League comeback player of the year award, and also pitched briefly for the Mets.

Ellis, who grew up in Los Angeles in an era when inner-city baseball thrived, wore curlers in his hair during batting practice, went into the stands and sat next to hecklers, and described himself as a baseball militant, speaking out about injustices in an era when players had much less power — and money — than they do today.

But it was Ellis’s claim, after he retired, that he threw his no-hitter while under the influence of LSD that cemented his standing as an icon of the sport’s counterculture era, making him an intriguing figure to artists, musicians, filmmakers and journalists — even after his death.

“Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball,” a 1976 biography, was written with the poet laureate Donald Hall. Robin Williams has riffed on the no-hitter in a stand-up routine, and several musicians have written songs about it. Blagden’s film was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

“People respond to it because of the sheer disbelief,” said Donnell Alexander, whose 2008 radio interview with Ellis for American Public Media was one of his last and is working on a script about him. “This story has been sitting there for 40 years, and you haven’t heard of it. Here’s this amazing out-of-body experience and nobody told us about it.”

Alexander’s report, recorded with his colleague Neille Ilel as part of a two-and-a-half-hour conversation at Ellis’s home in Apple Valley, Calif., was produced in the wake of the Mitchell report and soon after Roger Clemens testified before Congress that he had not used performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens was arraigned last Monday on charges that he lied to Congress.

Although some might view LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) as the antisteroid — a performance-de-enhancing drug, Isenberg called it — Alexander said he saw Ellis’s use of it differently. While working in Chico, Calif., he had come across a high school football team in which a majority of the offensive starters took acid. The team, Alexander said, went undefeated.

“There’s a forbidden aspect of it,” Alexander said of the drug. “It’s exotic.”

So, although David Wells said he was half-drunk from the night before when he pitched his perfect game for the Yankees in 1998, and stimulants have long been a part of baseball culture, just as marijuana has been in the N.B.A., the idea that hallucinogenic drugs might find their way into sports interested Alexander.

“The Beatles, Steve Jobs when he was stuck took acid; so many great works of popular art were made under its influence, so the idea that it can extend to sports is intriguing,” Alexander said. “We’re led to believe there’s no overlap between drug culture and sports culture, but why wouldn’t there be? I think there’s a rooting interest in LSD among a certain part of our culture.”

The folksinger Todd Snider was a rabid baseball fan growing up in Portland, Ore. But he did not know of Ellis’s no-hitter several years ago when he was backstage at a summer festival, listening to members of another band say they had taken LSD before going onstage.

“I’m pretty sure the boss heard them say that, and nobody’s flinching at all,” said Snider, who lives in Nashville. “I told my friend if we were in any other line of work, there’s no way that would happen. My friend said: ‘That’s not true. Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on LSD.’ I had to find out about this guy.”

As he did, Snider learned that in May 1974, Ellis purposely hit the first three Cincinnati Reds he faced, afraid that the Pirates had become intimidated by Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and the rest of the Big Red Machine. And that in 1971, Ellis dared National League Manager Sparky Anderson to start “two brothers” in the All-Star Game after Vida Blue, another African-American, had been selected to start for the American League. Anderson started Ellis, who surrendered a mammoth home run to Reggie Jackson.

“I was just attracted to any non-jocky jock,” said Snider, who wrote “America’s Favorite Pastime” about Ellis’s no-hitter. “I like Joe Namath, Dennis Rodman, Mike Tyson. Dock had an artistic flair to his life. Sports people tend to forget that it’s not a show — they get serious. Like, it’s a TV show.”

Ellis’s son, Dock Ellis III, a former college basketball player, said he remembered his father as a rebel, a free spirit who never refrained from speaking his mind. That served Ellis well in his years as a substance-abuse and prison counselor in the high desert town of Victorville, outside Los Angeles. He gave up drugs and alcohol when his son, now 30, was an infant, afraid he would otherwise harm him.

The loud voice, full of humor and wonderment, that the younger Ellis remembered is the one that can be heard on Alexander’s radio interview, which Blagden used to narrate his film.

“As soon as we heard that voice, we knew we had something,” said Blagden, who loved the way the word “no-no” bounced out of Ellis’s mouth. “He’s a great storyteller, and there was a great use of slang and his cadence was natural. The editing was great, but he’s got such a comedic sensibility — he’s such a multidimensional character.”

Over the years, questions have been raised about whether Ellis really was on LSD when he pitched the no-hitter. Alexander said he had no doubts, pointing out that Ellis was much less erratic in the final innings as the drug wore off.

Isenberg said any debate was beside the point.

“It makes it more interesting that there’s this element of doubt,” he said. “It’s the old unreliable narrator. In the end, it’s an article of faith.”






http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/sports/baseball/05nohitter.html?ref=sports