Dock Ellis, by all counts, was a good pitcher. He was a starting pitcher in the 1971 All Star Game, had a winning record, and ended his career with a respectable 3.47 ERA. All in all he was a pretty good pitcher. Not an all time great, but you know… Pretty dang good.
So why did his Rookie Card sell for $5,000? Why did his card sell for as much as a rookie Cal Ripken, Jr?
Is it because of his overall stats?
Is it because he later became a great advocate in the fight against addiction?
It’s because Dock Ellis pitched one of the most legendary no-hitters in all of Baseball.
Thursday, June 11, 1970.
The Pittsburgh Pirates arrive in San Diego for their game against the Padres the following day. Dock Ellis took the extra day to visit a friend in Los Angeles before the game the next day. He and his girlfriend arrived in LA, met up with Dock’s buddy, and then they all proceeded to go on an absolute LSD Bender.
Ellis says he took LSD “two or three times” that day... But he may be an unreliable narrator here because after taking another hit of the hallucinogenic drug, his girlfriend informed him that it was, in fact, already Friday and he was scheduled to pitch in 4 hours. So Ellis hopped a flight and made it to the stadium with about an hour to spare.
LSD is a lot of things, but one thing it is NOT, is a “performance enhancing drug.” But apparently no one told Dock, because he proceeded to pitch a no hitter.
In a major league game.
While high on LSD.
Mind you, it wasn’t the most graceful of no hitters. He walked more people (8) than he struck out (6) and was apparently saved a few times by ESPN highlight level plays by some of his outfielders. But for a guy who says he couldn't feel the ball or see the catcher… I’d say that’s not too shabby. Ellis later said that sometimes the umpire looked like Richard Nixon, and that at one point he thought he was pitching against rock legend Jimi Hendrix, who was swinging with his guitar.
Though Ellis did a lot of other things, and was a good, maybe even great, pitcher, the legend of the 1970 no hitter has completely overshadowed everything else, and I have no doubt that that one incredible game is the reason a gem mint 10 Dock Ellis Rookie Card was able to fetch a $5,000 price tag.