One of the leading pitchers for the Pittsburg Pirates and the
New York Yankees, Dock Ellis was 63 when he passed away in Los
Angeles after a battle with a long addiction to drugs and alcohol.
According to his wife, Ellis died of cirrhosis of the liver in
December, 2008. He was on the waiting list for a liver transplant
but hear problems made the transplant impossible.
Dock Ellis' unusual first name came from the fact that his father
wanted him to be a doctor when he grew up and the name would serve
as inspiration. The "k" was added to his name at some
point, though it is not sure when that came about.
Over his career, Ellis won 138 games and was the 1971 starting
pitcher for the National League at the All-Star Game. His 12 year
career was covered in glory, but it was also tarnished with many
bizarre incidents that occurred on and off the field mostly due
to his drinking and taking of drugs.
According to his 1976 biography, "Dock Ellis in the Country
of Baseball", the no-hitter he threw in 1970 against the
Padres had been preceded by the use of LSD because he was not
expecting to pitch the first game. Upon realization that he would
be going to the mound sooner than expected, he took a round of
amphetamines to kill the effects of the LSD.
Ellis' career had taken a number of turns, one of the most interesting
was just before the 1971 All Star Game when he proclaimed that
the NL manager would not start him because Vida Blue would be
starting for the American League and "they wouldn't pitch
two brothers against each other" referring to the color of
Blue's skin. Ellis started anyway and gave up a big home run to
Ellis' antics continued throughout his career, including the
time he struck three Cincinnati batters in a row citing that two
years earlier he had been disrespected by the Reds organization
after they had made disparaging remarks about the Pirates. During
the 1973 season, Ellis would wear hair curlers which allowed the
sweat off his neck to be used for spitballs.
Ellis helped the Pirates win the World Series in 1971 and helped
lead the Yankees to the 1976 World Series where they were defeated
by the Reds. Ellis played for three more teams before retiring
in 1979 with a record of 138 - 119.
The full story of Dock Ellis' drug abuse first became public
knowledge in 1985 when he told a reporter for the Los Angeles
Times that he began using drugs as a teenager and then progressed
to alcohol when he joined the minor leagues. He also claimed that
every game he pitched in the majors that he was high on drugs.
After leaving baseball he entered a substance-abuse treatment
center located in Arizona and then began working as a drug and
alcohol counselor while living in California. The Yankees actually
hired Ellis in the 1980s to speak about substance abuse to those
in the minor league, hoping that the lessons he learned would
be passed on to a new generation.