Austin Filmmaker Shows Dock Ellis Was More Than Just a Pitcher on LSD
"No No: A Dockumentary" follows the life of Dock Ellis, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates from the late '60s through the mid '70s who is best known for pitching a no-hitter on LSD.
KUT's Laura Rice spoke with Radice about about Ellis' life on and off the field, the use of drugs in the MLB before the steroids era and Ellis' impact on the game.
On Choosing to Make this Film:
"The no-hitter is most people's entry point into the Dock Ellis story – and it was certainly mine – but what made me want to tell a bigger story and to make a documentary film about him was his biography written by Donald Hall – who was a poet, had taught at the University of Michigan for many years and met Dock probably in the early 1970s and they became friends. He wrote his biography. It came out in 1976 called 'Dock Ellis and the Country of Baseball.' And it just painted this really fascinating portrait of a man. Dock also had a number of interesting anecdotes: wearing curlers on the field, hitting the first three batters that he faced in baseball, was really outspoken about racial issues... So there were these vignettes that I could picture that you could tell a story that was bigger than Dock but also tell his life story at the same time."
On Dock's Impact on Racial Tension in Baseball:
"Dock, in 1971, he was having an excellent season going into the All Star Game. Vida Blue playing for the Oakland A's in the American League was having a phenomenal season and was a shoe-in as the starter for the American League side as starting pitcher. Dock was one of probably a handful of potential starters. And to antagonize a bit, a little bit of reverse psychology, said to somebody in the media that they won't start a brother against a brother in the All Star Game and this just broke open and the press really latched onto it – mainly the print media back then – and it worked to his favor because he ended up starting in the All Star Game. But I guess in the process of generating all this press activity Jackie Robinson heard about it and wrote Dock a letter. It was just a personal letter and he basically said, "I really appreciate what you're doing, I wish more athletes would do this. And you need to understand that you're not going to get the recognition that you deserve and a lot of the other athletes are not going to have your back but don't stop doing what you're doing."
On Drugs in Baseball:
"I think that there is a certain hypocrisy within the executive ranks of baseball and certain baseball fans about the steroid era and if you look at the history of the last 50 years of baseball as demarcated by these eras: the steroids era, the cocaine era, the greenies era. And, in Dock's time, it was greenies... Greenies were socialized as normal within baseball and the baseball establishment has papered over that era of baseball and they don't want to talk about it and I think it's healthy to talk about this."
On What He Hopes Audiences Find:
"For the people that go in having heard of Dock Ellis and the LSD story I want them to understand that there was this much more complex interesting and intelligent individual that made a difference in a number of realms and to separate him from what I refer to as the side-show of the LSD no-hitter and round out the full portrait of the individual. But also I think everyone is flawed and we all have obstacles, internal conflicts and external conflicts that we need to overcome. And Dock is an example of somebody who was able to overcome some of his own internal demons and really become a much more productive person."