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Dock Ellis, RIP

December 20, 2008 - John Mehno

Just read that Dock Ellis died on Friday, a victim of liver disease at 63.

Ellis was a pretty good pitcher for the Pirates in the 1970s, but he was best known for everything but pitching. There was the time he was photographed during pre-game drills at Wrigley Field with curlers in his hair. There was the time he got into a hassle with a stadium security guard in Cincinnati and wound up being pepper sprayed ad he tried to enter the ballpark. There was the time he decided to show the Reds who was boss and tried to hit every batter who came to the plate. And long after his playing career had ended, there was his assertion that he had pitched his 1970 no-hitter under the influence of LSD.

Beneath the bluster was a basically good-hearted man who wasn't anywhere as mean as he looked. Dock liked to play the role of the tough guy to try to intimidate people, but that wasn't him. He cared about people. After baseball, he was a drug counselor and also worked with prison inmates. Ellis lived to stir things up, but in most cases he liked to sit back and laugh at all the commotion he'd caused. The Pirates had one of the most unique clubhouses in the '70s, and Ellis was a big part of that.

News of his illness broke a while back. Word was he was on the list awaiting an organ transplant. Sadly, this was one time when he wasn't exaggerating to gain attention.

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