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When an MLB Pitcher Threw a No-Hitter While Tripping on Acid

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On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis was unprepared to pitch against the San Diego Padres for one simple reason. He thought it was still June 11.

Number 17 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ellis had developed a reputation for brazen behavior. He liked to wear curlers in his hair because Major League Baseball management didn’t want him to. He was outspoken in matters of race, once remarking that managers would never allow “two brothers” to start in an all-star game. Jackie Robinson wrote him a letter encouraging his social consciousness while warning him that not everyone was going to like it.

Ellis was all right with that. He was a self-medicating athlete, popping stimulants before games and partying with cocaine and alcohol afterward. The substances either gave him an edge or took it off.

Playing on LSD wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but Ellis liked to work with what he had. Before the game in San Diego, Ellis had crashed in Los Angeles at the home of a friend, where he dropped tabs of acid. He woke to the sounds of the man’s girlfriend telling him he had to pitch that afternoon. He insisted the game was tomorrow. It was only when she showed him the sports page of the day's newspaper that he believed her. 

“What happened to yesterday?” he asked.

He caught a flight to San Diego, suited up, and in the clubhouse swallowed Benzedrines, a stimulant, to counter the effects of the LSD. Standing on the mound, he could barely identify the players in front of him. They were swinging bats, that much he knew, and sometimes they’d stand on the other side of home plate. Disoriented, he tried focusing on the reflective tape wrapped around the catcher’s fingers. One inning bled into the next. Everyone knew he was high on something. It wasn’t pretty—Ellis kept beaning batters and walking them—but pretty soon he realized he was looking at a no-hitter, or “no no.”  Even when the pitcher isn't tripping his face off, the chances of that are as low as 1 in 1,548 games.

The game might have seemed like hours, or seconds: Ellis would later say he lost all concept of time. But when it ended, the Padres hadn't been able to touch him. He had pitched a no-hitter on acid.

At first, Ellis was gleeful about the incident. He related the story to author Donald Hall, who was co-writing his autobiography, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball, but was talked out of publishing it for fear it would blemish the League. (Instead, the book said he pitched the game while hungover.) As its legend grew, so did Ellis’s exaggeration of the feat. He recalled seeing Jimi Hendrix swinging at his pitches with a guitar and Richard Nixon standing behind home plate.  

It’s hard to know for certain what he actually experienced. LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is a psychedelic drug that can cause a variety of sensations by stimulating serotonin receptors. Distorted senses, vivid colors, hallucinations, and emotional highs and lows are all common. Ellis recalled that when one batter hit the ball, he’d hopped out of the way, afraid of getting hit. In reality, the ball was a grounder rolling towards him in the grass.  

Whatever it was Ellis felt, he couldn’t have minded it too much. In a Jet magazine interview from 1984, he said he had dropped LSD before a game a second time in 1974 and wound up hitting multiple batters—including Pete Rose—on purpose. He claimed to not be sober for any of his games with the New York Yankees later that decade. (He returned to the Pirates before retiring from baseball in 1980.)

But as Ellis’s interest in drugs dwindled, he began to grow slightly more sheepish about the story. Before his death in 2008 from liver disease, he lectured wayward kids on the perils of substance abuse. He claimed he took drugs to numb the fear of failure. He could never quite shake the desire to amplify it, though. “I was as high as a Georgia pine,” he’d say. During those moments, it was hard to know whether Ellis was ashamed or proud of that evening. Either way, June 12, 1970 was a date he no longer had any problem remembering.

Additional Sources:
No No: A Dockumentary

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Denis Poroy/Getty Images
The First High Five Recorded in the History of Sports
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Denis Poroy/Getty Images

We don’t quite know who invented the high five—but we can pinpoint the moment it became inextricably linked with sports, which the short documentary The High Five explores below.

On October 2, 1977, Los Angeles Dodgers leftfielder Dusty Baker scored his 30th home run, making the team the first in history to have four players—Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, and Reggie Smith—with at least 30 homers under each of their belts. Fellow outfielder Glenn Burke was so overwhelmed with joy and pride, he raised his arm and slapped his flat palm against the victorious athlete’s own palm. The moment transformed Baker and Burke into legends.

Sadly, the latter player faced hard times ahead: Burke was gay, and it’s believed that his sexuality prompted team officials to trade him to the Oakland A's the following year. In Oakland, Burke clashed with team manager Billy Martin, then retired early from baseball. Today, Burke is remembered for his charisma and talent—and for transforming a simple gesture into a universal symbol. “To think his energy and personality was the origin of that, that’s a pretty good legacy,” sportswriter Lyle Spencer says in the film.

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11 Outrageous Ballpark Foods
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Major League ballpark food has gone way beyond peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and the all-American hot dog. Now you can enjoy full meals, international cuisine, and eye-popping, gut-busting specialty dishes concocted for maximum publicity. Let's sample some of the outrageous dishes available at baseball games this year.


Wayback Burger has the ultimate meat-lover's burger at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Watch the Phillies while eating a Triple Triple Burger with nine beef patties and nine slices of cheese. And some veggies, if you can find them.


First seen in 2015, Pig Guy still offers S‘mores Bacon on a Stick at Citi Field. That's a slice of thick bacon dipped in marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker crumbs …on a stick. If you so choose, there are other toppings available for your bacon on a stick, like Sriracha maple glaze or salted caramel.


Served by Edgar's Cantina, the authentic Oaxacan chapulines debuting this year at Safeco Field in Seattle are "toasted grasshoppers with chile-lime salt seasoning." [PDF] They sold out on opening day, and the ballpark moved more grasshoppers in three games than Edgar's home restaurant Poquitos serves in a year!


Not in the mood for toasted grasshoppers? There are plenty of sweet treats available at Safeco Field in Seattle, including the made-to-order deluxe frozen custard cookie sandwiches from Frozen Rope Sandwich Company. As you can see, they come with extras.


In case you don't know what Rocky Mountain oysters are, they're bull testicles that are sliced and deep-fried. Not only are they a huge hit throughout Colorado, they've been a staple at Rockies games for 20 years.


New for 2017, you'll be able to try the Texas Snowballs at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. It's made of chopped brisket and barbecue sauce rolled into a ball and covered with funnel cake batter. It is then deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Is it an entree or a dessert? That's your decision.


Choomongous is both a sandwich and a description. This staple at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, is a 24-inch Korean beef sandwich that was crafted in 2014 in honor of Texas Ranger outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. The sandwich is stuffed with Korean-spiced beef, spicy slaw, and Sriracha-infused mayo. Your best advice is to split it with a friend or two.


Watch baseball at Minute Maid Park and use only one hand to eat a full dinner. The Chicken and Waffle Cone puts fried chicken fingers and mashed potatoes inside a large waffle cone with honey-mustard sauce on top. The fan favorite is in its third year of satisfying hungry Astros fans.


Miller Park in Milwaukee is the home of Inside the Park Nachos, which is basically taco meat on a stick that is rolled in crushed Doritos, fried, and served with cheese sauce, sour cream, and salsa.


Chase Field in Phoenix first served the Churro Dog in 2015. This is not the ballpark hot dog you're used to, but an 1100-calorie dessert. The "dog" is a cinnamon churro, the "bun" is a split Long John donut, and the toppings are frozen yogurt, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and whipped cream. For 2017, the Churro Dog 2.0 comes dressed up in Oreos! The churro is rolled in crushed Oreo cookies, strawberry topping replaces the caramel, and then a generous helping of more Oreo crumbs is sprinkled on top.


Target Field is offering a new Bloody Mary during Twins games. Hrbek's Pub supplies the new Triple Sausage Bloody Mary, a Bloody Mary with deluxe garnishes including three varieties of sausage (brat, Polish, and andouille), in addition to cheese cubes, peppers, and various fruits and vegetables. You can get a variation with a hamburger garnish if you like!


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