“Juuuuuust a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.”
- Harry Doyle, Major League (1989)
Fred called me a few days before the CWS began in Omaha and asked me if someone offered me a ticket to the upcoming weekend games and a place to stay, if I would go. “To watch baseball?” I asked him. “No thanks.”
I got to wondering later, why I care so little for the great American pastime. It probably goes way back to the fourth grade, when I got stuck in the outfield for my team, the Red Foxes, when we lived in Oklahoma City for that one year. No one ever hit it out there to me, and when someone finally did, I threw it to the wrong place. Besides poor fielding and throwing skills, I couldn’t hit anything, not that the pitchers I faced were any good. All that made for a long season and I never went back, which seems funny to me now, because my favorite sports movies are the ones about baseball. Seriously, I’ve watched “The Natural” like 20 times.
Pop Fisher: You know, my mama wanted me to be a farmer.
Roy Hobbs: My dad wanted me to be a baseball player.
Pop Fisher: Well you're better than any player I ever had. And you're the best *&@ damn hitter I ever saw. Suit up.
And “Field of Dreams”...
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and could be again.”
Great stuff, but I could never get into watching actual games. One, I think I would have enjoyed seeing though took place almost 50 years ago, on June 12, 1970. On that day, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in San Diego to play the Padres and Pittsburgh’s starting pitcher was to be Dock Ellis. But Ellis had spent the previous night partying pretty hard with an old friend in Los Angeles. When he woke up that morning he was still in LA, so he dropped some more acid and got ready to enjoy the day. He took some more LSD at noon, which was about the time his friend told him he’d better get going if he wanted to make the game. “Why?” Ellis asked. “It’s not ‘til tomorrow.”
“No man,” the friend said, “it’s at six tonight.” Ellis nervously opened the paper to the sports page and saw his friend was right.
He rushed to make a 3:00 flight and got to the ballpark an hour before the game’s first pitch. Three hours later Ellis had somehow accomplished that rare feat, a no-hitter.
“So there I was, high as a Georgia Pine, trippin’ on acid,” Ellis says in the 2014 film, “No No: A Dockumentary.”
“I really didn’t see the hitters. All I could tell was if they were on the right side or the left. As far as seeing the target, the catcher put tape on his fingers so I could see the signals. The opposing team and my teammates, they all knew I was high. But they didn’t know what I was high on. They didn’t really see it, but I had the acid in me, and I didn’t know what I looked like with that acid. I had lost all concept of time.”
He said once he thought he was pitching to Jimi Hendrix, who was batting with his guitar, and that Nixon was the umpire.
After nine innings, eight walks, six strikeouts, and two hit basemen, Dock Ellis had done the impossible; he’d pitched a no-hitter high on LSD.
“It was ugly,” he said later. “But it was still a no no.”