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Dock Ellis

July 02, 2007
July 02, 2007

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July 2, 2007

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Dock Ellis

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

He threw ano-hitter on LSD, hurling wicked fastballs past shape-shifting batters to adisappearing catcher, his feat inspiring a collection of admirers that includedTimothy Leary, the guru of psychedelia. Surely that fateful outing on June 12,1970, in San Diego must have been the scariest experience of Dock Ellis's12-year career.

This is an article from the July 2, 2007 issue Original Layout

"That's nottrue," says Ellis, 62, with a wide grin. "The scariest time was in1973, when I tried to pitch completely sober. We were in San Francisco, andwhen I went to the bullpen to warm up I couldn't even figure out how to windup. [Catcher] Manny Sanguillen asked what was wrong, and I said, 'I don't havemy s---.' He said, 'You better go get it, then!' I ran to the dugout, got somegreenies [amphetamines] and hot coffee, and a few minutes later I knew how topitch again."

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

"What makesDock great is that he doesn't hide a thing about his past--and he cares so muchabout the people he helps," says Dwayne Ballard, who has remained closewith 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 inhis class, and he always kept everybody laughing. And if a [patient] was downon his luck and needed clothes, Dock would go into his own closet."

Two years agoEllis began teaching weekly at a school for DUI offenders. "I give them oneclass 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 forthemselves. And some of them, quite honestly, don't care what I say. They wantthe class to be over so they can go to the bar."

Ellis, who hasthree children and a grandchild (his daughter Shangaleza, died five years agobecause 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 tieswith baseball but otherwise has few complaints. "When I played baseball Iwas a damn fool, and I enjoyed it," he says. "I'm still a damn fool. Ijust don't get high."

PHOTOWALTER IOOSS JR. (ELLIS ACTION)PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (ELLIS CURRENT)LongRide
Ellis has become a mentor in his California community.