By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"It's such an important aspect of the game," he says. "Like hitting batsmen. All hitters know they're gonna get hit. They just don't know when. The kicker for the truly good hitters is, you cannot hit me as many times as I'm gonna hit you. They take that hit to get six hits. But you gotta pop their ass so you can get an 0 for 4 on them one day. Don't get cocky now, motherfucker. The challenge is on. So let's get it on. Other guys might explain it differently, have different reasons, but that was mine.
"Right about the time I left, it changed. You can't throw at anyone without getting thrown out of the game. The announcers today say it ruins the game. They never talk about the fights that Cincinnati and St. Louis got into 30 years ago. Barry Bonds? I'd hit him at least once a game. 'Cause he's got all that shit on. Yeah, let's see that shit stop the ball from hurting him if I hit him on the motherfucking elbow or something. I'd hit him just to see, does it work?"
It was also that 1971 All-Star game that first gained Ellis his reputation as a militant--an image later etched in stone by the 1976 biography Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball, which declared him "baseball's Muhammad Ali."
Before the game, Ellis let it be known that NL manager Sparky Anderson would never start him, because the announced AL starter, Vida Blue, was also black. This launched the inevitable national sportswriters' debate about how racism didn't exist in 1971, and how dare he and why would he and so on and whatnot. The flap had its intended effect: Anderson, grumblingly, started Ellis, and the pitcher soon became one of the most reviled players in the league, branded a troublemaker and miscreant. Ellis was untroubled by the affair; as with most things in which he believed, he openly declared he "didn't give a fuck what anybody thought." With possibly one exception: A few days after the All-Star game, Ellis received a letter in the mail.
"I read your comments in our paper the last few days," it read, "and wanted you to know how much I appreciate your honesty. The news media, while knowing full well you are right and honest, will use every means to get back at you. Honors that should be yours will bypass you and the pressures will be great--try not to be left alone. There will be times when you ask yourself if it's worth it all. I can only say, Dock, it is.
Ellis had no idea what the score was, and he knew he'd been wild--he ended with eight walks, one hit batsman and the bases loaded at least twice--but here it was, bottom of the seventh, and he was still in the game.
The hardest part was between innings. He was sure his teammates knew something was up. They had all been acting strange since the game began. Solution: Do not look at teammates. Do not look at scoreboard. Must not make eye contact. His spikes--that's what he concentrated on. Pick up tongue depressor, scrape the mud, repeat. Must. Clean. Spikes.
Sometime in the fifth or sixth, he sensed someone next to him. Looking. He turned. It was rookie infielder Dave Cash.
"Dock," Cash said. "You've got a no-hitter going."
Cash, apparently unaware of the (insanely well-known) superstition that a pitcher never talks about a no-hitter until it's complete for fear of jinxing it, was immediately piled upon by several outraged teammates. Ellis, meanwhile, looked at the scoreboard.
After the eighth, during which he'd watched outfielder Matty Alou snag an almost certain base hit, Ellis walked off the field and looked Cash straight in the eye.
"Still got my no-no!" Ellis declared.