There was a sad story story in the LA Times today.

Former Major League pitcher Dock Ellis is gravely ill and has been placed on the national registry for a liver transplant. Ellis says he discovered he had  cirrhosis of the liver the day after Thanksgiving. Doctors fear without a new liver Dock Ellis will soon be dead.

Ellis, now 63 and living in California, was one of baseball’s most colorful characters during the 70’s. He famously was disciplined by Pittsburgh Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh in 1973 for wearing hair curlers on the field.

In May of 1974 Ellis vowed to bean every batter in the Cincinnati Reds lineup to start the game. Ellis hit Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen with pitches. He attempted to hit Reds cleanup hitter Tony Perez on every pitch but missed. Ellis then threw two straight pitches at Johnny Bench before Murtaugh pulled him from the game.

Ellis was the National League’s starting pitcher for the 1971 All Star Game. He won 19 games for the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates that season and lobbied for the start. Ellis wanted to face American League starter Vida Blue. That marked the first time two African American pitchers started in the All Star Game. During the game Reggie Jackson hit a monster home run. In apparent retaliation, Ellis beaned Jackson in the face.

Ellis was also the first major professional athlete to be maced. The incident happened in 1972 at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. A security guard barred Ellis from entering through the players entrance after the pitcher tried to use his World Series ring as a form of identification. It probably didn’t help Ellis that he was carrying a half-empty bottle of cheap wine at the time. An altercation ensued and the security guard maced him. Ellis cried racism. The security guard said he simply didn’t recognize him.

Of course, Ellis is most famous for being high on LSD while he pitched a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970. Ellis later claimed he was so high during the game that he couldn’t see the catcher or the batters during the game. Catcher Jerry May had to use orange reflective tape on his glove so Ellis could see the plate. Despite throwing a no-hitter and shutting out the Padres, Ellis walked eight batters in the game.

Ellis has been clean and sober since 1980. In recent years he has worked as a drug counselor.

Ellis’ book Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball (authored by future U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall) is one of the most thoughtful sports biographies ever written and is still a good read 30 years after its publication.

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