Leitch on Ellis

Will Leitch comments on Dock Ellis’ passing today, particularly his acid no-hitter. In so doing, we’re reminded that Deadspin lost a hell of a lot more than most people realize when he left:

The world is a crazed, nonsensical place, mostly random, confused, chaotic, numbing. We search for reason wherever we can find it. And then, out of the nether, someone throws a no-hitter on LSD, and we realize that there is so much we do not understand, so much that will always elude, so much with a strange beauty that’s impossible to comprehend. Dock Ellis’ achievement has been lost to the years — it’s not exactly the type of thing ESPN can do a “SportsCentury” about — but it’s staggering and awesome, and we mustn’t ever forget it. R.I.P. Dock Ellis. We know a little bit more about our world because of you, and a lot less. Thank you.

Much of the appeal of baseball is that it allows you to shut out the real world for a while, but I find that it’s much more fulfilling to use baseball as one of many points of comfortable reference to observe and understand the real world. Leitch is doing that here, and I find it far more satisfying than simply listing the guy’s stats and noting the LSD thing as a comical aside, which so many other remembrances have done since Friday.

Sure, trying to find some greater human truths in the world of baseball is an approach which has its limitations — for example, if you’re looking for the secrets of the universe inside the Rockies’ decision to designate someone for assignment, good luck — but it’s something I shoot for around here, and something I’d like to see more of in the sporting press.


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Dan
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Dan

This spring I heard an amazing NPR interview with Dock talking about the whole experience.  I’m amazed that I hadn’t heard about this before (as a devoted, albeit 20-something baseball fan) and was laughing out loud on my drive home from work.  Absolutely worth a listen to hear him describe it first-hand.

http://weekendamerica.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/03/28/pitch/

lar
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lar
Maybe it’s just me and my utter disinterest in illegal drugs/narcotics of any sort, but why is this something to be celebrated? It’s an honest question, and not meant to disparage anyone’s opinion or point of view. I mean, I understand that it’s kind of cool to know that something like that can be done and I understand the insight into baseball that it provides (and how it can help to show us that ballplayers are much more human and much less perfect than we sometimes make them out to be), but is that it? How is this different than… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra
Lar, Last point first:  I can’t speak for Leitch, but please don’t think that my highlighting of his piece suggests that the no-hitter on LSD should be the focus of all remembrances of Dock Ellis or somehow constituted the most notable thing in his life.  Some people have been comprehensive in their memories of him, and those writings are certainly better places to start (and probably end) when thinking about the guy.  Others have focused on just one or two things, and this just happens to be one of them.  This happens to everyone who passes or any news story… Read more »
The Common Man
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The Common Man
@ Iar I think the act means something different to each of us. Timothy Leary is going to celebrate it as a demonstration of the mind-freeing powers of LSD, I suppose.  Many of us are going to be amazed.  Some aren’t going to care, or are going to be be disturbed that it doesn’t teach the kids a lesson.  What’s most interesting, to me, is that this speaks to the incredible talent Ellis had, pitching a no-hitter while impaired.  And it’s a warning because of how he managed to squander a great deal of it, washing out at age 34. … Read more »
lar
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lar
Thanks for the thoughts. I’m sorry if I came across as preachy or judgemental… it wasn’t my intention. And, Craig, I didn’t think you were suggesting anything like that. It was pretty clear that your post was about Leitch’s writing and how sports-writing should strive to be more human and less droll. I can understand the interest in the LSD no-hitter as a study of what the human body can do and what Ellis himself could do, and how it leaves tantalizing questions about talent untapped. I get that, and I agree. It really makes you wonder, and it makes… Read more »
Pete Toms
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Pete Toms
My first thought on hearing of the passing of Ellis was the LSD no hitter.  But in reading the many remembrances / bios of Ellis it has led me to think about how MLB has changed. Ellis played when I was a kid and I ( raised in Madoc ON Canada ) of all things – was a Pirate fan.  So his passing has led me to reminisce about “The Lumber Company” and all that.  And that era and in particular those Pirate teams were BLACK!  Lots and lots of American black guys.  We chattering classes have talked a lot… Read more »
Melody
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Melody
“Much of the appeal of baseball is that it allows you to shut out the real world for a while, but I find that it’s much more fulfilling to use baseball as one of many points of comfortable reference to observe and understand the real world.” I think Joe Posnanski does an especially amazing job of this, which is what makes his writing so compelling.  Most of the great baseball writing I love is the same way—“Ball Four” is really about much more than baseball.  I think playing sports helps us learn about life, so it makes sense that writing… Read more »
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