I have neither taken LSD or thrown a no-hitter, but I’ve watched enough people do each to know that doing both at the same time seems damn near impossible. But it was 47 years ago today that Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates did exactly that in a game against the San Diego Padres. No matter how many times I hear the story I’m amazed by it, and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so many years to put it here.
Self-reportedly under the influence of LSD, Ellis threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres 2-0 on Friday, June 12, 1970 in the first game of a doubleheader at San Diego Stadium. The Pirates flew to San Diego on Thursday, June 11 for a series against the Padres. Ellis reported that he visited a friend in Los Angeles and used LSD “two or three times.” Thinking it was still Thursday, he took a hit of LSD on Friday at noon, and his friend’s girlfriend reminded him at 2:00 PM that he was scheduled to pitch that night. Ellis flew from Los Angeles to San Diego at 3:00 PM and arrived at San Diego Stadium at 4:30 PM; the game started at 6:05 PM.
Ellis threw the no-hitter despite being unable to feel the ball or see the batter or catcher clearly. Ellis said his catcher Jerry May wore reflective tape on his fingers which helped him to see May’s signals. Ellis walked eight batters and struck out six, and he was aided by excellent fielding plays from second baseman Bill Mazeroski and center fielder Matty Alou.
As Ellis recounted:
I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the [catcher’s] glove, but I didn’t hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters, and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes, I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn’t hit hard and never reached me.
Ellis reported that he never used LSD during the season again, though he continued to use amphetamines. After the story was made public, he said he regretted taking LSD that day because it “robbed him of his greatest professional memory.”