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Dock Ellis
Michael Silver
July 02, 2007
Notorious for baseball's trippiest mound exploit, he turned his experiences to the good by helping substance abusers
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July 02, 2007

Dock Ellis

Notorious for baseball's trippiest mound exploit, he turned his experiences to the good by helping substance abusers

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He threw a no-hitter on LSD, hurling wicked fastballs past shape-shifting batters to a disappearing catcher, his feat inspiring a collection of admirers that included Timothy Leary, the guru of psychedelia. Surely that fateful outing on June 12, 1970, in San´┐ŻDiego must have been the scariest experience of Dock Ellis's 12-year career.

"That's not true," says Ellis, 62, with a wide grin. "The scariest time was in 1973, when I tried to pitch completely sober. We were in San Francisco, and when I went to the bullpen to warm up I couldn't even figure out how to wind up. [Catcher] Manny Sanguillen asked what was wrong, and I said, 'I don't have my s---.' He said, 'You better go get it, then!' I ran to the dugout, got some greenies [amphetamines] and hot coffee, and a few minutes later I knew how to pitch again."

Sipping a strawberry lemonade at a restaurant near his home in Apple Valley, Calif., Ellis neither glorifies nor varnishes his past. The longtime Pirate and 1971 All-Star Game starter entered a treatment center and got sober shortly after his retirement in 1980. Since then he's had a successful career as a drug counselor.

"What makes Dock great is that he doesn't hide a thing about his past--and he cares so much about the people he helps," says Dwayne Ballard, who has remained close with Ellis since taking his class at a treatment facility in Adelanto, Calif., seven years ago. "There were people standing in the aisles just to be in his class, and he always kept everybody laughing. And if a [patient] was down on his luck and needed clothes, Dock would go into his own closet."

Two years ago Ellis began teaching weekly at a school for DUI offenders. "I give them one class about drinking and driving and the other 51 about life," he says. "I try to help people, but I can't save them--they have to do that for themselves. And some of them, quite honestly, don't care what I say. They want the class to be over so they can go to the bar."

Ellis, who has three children and a grandchild (his daughter Shangaleza, died five years ago because of complications from type 1 diabetes), lives with his fourth wife, Hjordis, in a senior development on a golf course. He wishes he had more ties with baseball but otherwise has few complaints. "When I played baseball I was a damn fool, and I enjoyed it," he says. "I'm still a damn fool. I just don't get high."

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