Thursday, June 23, 2005

Dock Ellis and the LSD-fueled no-hitter of 1970

What's weird is that sometimes it felt like a balloon. Sometimes it felt like a golf ball. But he could always get it to the plate. Getting it over the plate was another matter entirely. Sometimes he couldn't see the hitter. Sometimes he couldn't see the catcher. But if he could see the hitter, he'd guess where the catcher was. And he had a great catcher back there. Jerry May. You could make mistakes with him, and he would compensate. He'd know if he called for a curveball, he could look at the follow-through of your arm and see if you were gonna hang it. So he'd get ready to slide and block. Also, he had this reflective tape on his fingers that was by far the easiest thing to see.

Ellis had no idea what the score was, and he knew he'd been wild--he ended with eight walks, one hit batsman and the bases loaded at least twice--but here it was, bottom of the seventh, and he was still in the game.

The hardest part was between innings. He was sure his teammates knew something was up. They had all been acting strange since the game began. Solution: Do not look at teammates. Do not look at scoreboard. Must not make eye contact. His spikes--that's what he concentrated on. Pick up tongue depressor, scrape the mud, repeat. Must. Clean. Spikes.

Sometime in the fifth or sixth, he sensed someone next to him. Looking. He turned. It was rookie infielder Dave Cash.

"Dock," Cash said. "You've got a no-hitter going."

Cash, apparently unaware of the (insanely well-known) superstition that a pitcher never talks about a no-hitter until it's complete for fear of jinxing it, was immediately piled upon by several outraged teammates. Ellis, meanwhile, looked at the scoreboard.



After the eighth, during which he'd watched outfielder Matty Alou snag an almost certain base hit, Ellis walked off the field and looked Cash straight in the eye.

"Still got my no-no!" Ellis declared.



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