Browsing through Netflix’s lineup I happened to come across a baseball documentary entitled ” No No: A Dockumentary.” It is the story of legendary Major League pitcher Dock Ellis who pitched a No Hitter while under the influence of LSD against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970.
I was talking to one of my colleagues at work and he told me that he had never heard of the story of Dock and the LSD No No, which kinda surprised me. But then I started thinking about where I had heard about Dock and I can’t think of where that might have been, maybe it was at Cooperstown in one of the special artifact collections.
Or maybe it was some off the wall trivia answer I picked up somewhere because I seem to pick up these ridiculous trivial pieces of knowledge. Either way I felt like I owed it to myself to find out more about Dock and the game.
What I found is that the “Dockumentary” is a bit misleading, because it’s not so much about the game as it is about Dock himself. It’s about what Dock believed in and the place where Dock grew up, the world that he pitched in, the society that he rebeled against (a society in which the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates questioned his cornrows), the society that didn’t believe in equality and the society that still saw color instead of humanity.
Dock was a man who fought for his rights and was a step ahead of the time, he was a smart man who knew how to fight his opponent, maybe he wasn’t the biggest guy in the fight but he was the smarter guy and he used the best weapon to take you down.
His comments to the media helped make sure that Sparky Anderson selected him to start against fellow African American pitcher Vida Blue in the 1971 All Star game in Tiger Stadium, something that was a huge thing for the time period. We tend to take these things for granted now, but Dock helped to break down that color barrier, in fact he was part of the first all minority lineup in Major League history with the Pirates on September 1, 1971.
He reads a note from fellow color barrier breaker Jackie Robinson in the “Dockumentary” and is moved to tears, it’s extremely powerful. Dock’s leadership could be quiet but yet he was seen by everyone as someone that you’d want to hang out with and someone that stood up for the injustice.
Unfortunately though the rigors of the 70’s and baseball caught up to Dock, and he used whatever he could to escape the pressure of being on the mound. He talks about not being able to remember much about certain games or teams and it’s incredibly sad to hear. At some point the drugs and drinking take over his life to the point that he has to make a choice to go to rehab.
Dock spent the last twenty some years of his life trying to help young players and young people get clean and stay clean. He knew what could happen to someone who let drugs and alcohol take over their minds and bodies.
In 2008, Dock’s liver gave out and he passed away, leaving so many to grieve for a many who touched hearts and gave back to people that he didn’t have to give back to but did because that’s the kind of person he was. His pursuit of equality led him to fight for civil rights, his pursuit for sobriety led him to help others find their own way and his pursuit of perfect helped others see that attaining perfection takes its toll on you. I wish I would have gotten to meet him, I’m certain there’s so much I could have learned from him. Dock wasn’t perfect, no one is, but one day for those couple hours he came close to being perfect and there was a Dock-tor in the house.