OBSERVASTIONS: The day Dock Ellis went head-hunting against the Reds


UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wondering if I believe commissioner Rob Manfred when he says there is a 100 percent chance baseball will return this year. I wouldn’t believe him if he passed a polygraph test.

—The famous story about Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis is that he pitched a no-hitter 50 years ago this week while on an LSD trip.

It was in San Diego and he was visiting a female friend. He found a tab of LSD and took it. The woman asked, “What are you doing, you pitch tonight?”

“No,” said Ellis. “I’m pitching Friday.”

“It is Friday,” she said. “Whoa, what happened to Thursday,” said Ellis.

He then pitched his no-hitter, but the Padres probably were scared to death. Ellis walked eight and he hit a batter. He walked Steve Huntz three times.

As bizarre as that tale is, I covered a game involving Ellis that was even more other-worldly.

In 1974, Ellis was fed up with his team. He thought the Pirates were intimidated by The Big Red Machine. So on this night he decided to hit every batter in the Reds’ lineup.

He opened the game by hitting Pete Rose. Then he hit Joe Morgan. Then he hit Dan Driessen. He tried to hit Tony Perez, throwing two pitches behind him. But he missed and walked The Big Dog. When he missed Johnny Bench’s head twice, manager Danny Murtaugh removed him.

The media is not permitted in the clubhouse during games, but I slipped out of the press box and took the elevator to the bottom floor. The guard at the clubhouse door was not there, so I walked in.

Ellis was in the room by himself, pacing the floor. The radio in the clubhouse was blaring and iconic broadcaster Bob Prince was talking.

Ellis looked at me and said, “The man on the radio says I’m in the record books now. Why did I do it? I’m just tired of my guys being afraid of those S.O.B.’s in red and I wanted to send a message to them and to my side”

I didn’t ask him if he was on LSD.

—QUOTE: From pitcher Dock Ellis after Pete Rose picked up the baseball with which Ellis hit him and gently tossed it underhanded back to Ellis: “You have to be a really good player to be a hot dog.”

—Former major league outfielder Claudell Washington died last week, taking with him a legacy of strikeouts, at least against Nolan Ryan.

Washington was Ryan’s No. 1 whiff victim, 39 times in his career. Washington, though, did hit three home runs in one game against the Chicago White Sox. Ryan wasn’t pitching.

Mark Whicker, an outstanding sports columnist for the Orange County Register, was working for the old Philadelphia Bulletin when the Atlanta Braves signed Washington to a four-year $3.2 million contract, less than a million a year.

But, says Whicker, Philadelphia Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter was so upset by escalating baseball salaries that he sold the team.

Wonder what Carpenter would think about the $35 million a year paid to Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole? If he owned it, he probably would sell the entire city of Philadelphia, including the William Penn statue atop City Hall.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. on why he didn’t like to stretch before games: “Stretch? Why should I stretch? Does a cheetah stretch before it chases its prey?”

—Doug Flynn was known for two things during his baseball career. He was a magician with the glove and he was part of the trade that sent him to the New York Mets and brought Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds.

During this same week in 1979, Flynn hit a three-run home run against the Reds during a 10-run sixth-inning for the Mets against the Reds. It was the most runs scored in one inning by the Mets.

And it was an inside-the-park home run off Dave Tomlin, also a former Cincinnati Reds player.

“Of course it was an inside the park home run,” said former Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee. “Flynn didn’t have enough power to hit it over the fence.”

In 11 major league seasons, Flynn hit seven home runs, including the one inside-the-park incident.

Flynn may have taken a bat to home plate for no apparent reason, but his glove was magical. Unfortunately for him, he was a second baseman and the Reds had a guy named Joe Morgan playing there.

And he could run. In a 1980 game he tied a National League record by hitting three triples against the Montreal Expos.

Flynn hadn’t played baseball for two years when he was signed by the Reds for $2,500 after three tryout camps. He hit .211 his first year at Class A Tampa and he asked manager Russ Nixon, “Am I wasting my time? If I am I can go back to school because I have some scholarship offers to play basketball?”

Nixon advised him to stick with it and Flynn made it.

—Joey Votto and other major league players are suggesting that players should wear microphones for telecasts, since fans won’t be in the stands.

Uh, be careful.

The PGA is trying it. They mic’d the players at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Tex., the first tournament since the COVID-19 pandemic.

And, as Huey Smith & The Rhythm Aces sang, “Don’t You Just Know It.” On the first shot of the tournament, after Jon Rahm hit a shot, somebody said on their live mike, “Really good f- – – ing shot.”

—QUOTE: Comedian Henny Youngman on his golf game: “While playing golf today, I hit two good balls. I stepped on a rake.”

—Hilda Ratliff, owner of Mom’s Restaurant in Franklin (best breakfast anywhere), tells the story of how she came from Kentucky to Middletown, a truly American saga.

“I left Kentucky with $82, the most money I’d ever seen in my life, and I had matching luggage – two IGA grocery bags.”

And now she is the queen of Warren County and all points east, west, north and south.

—My Little League team, the Hoskins Olds Giants, was 17-and-0 with one game to play. We trailed 2-1 in the last inning and we had the tying run on second base with two outs. And yours truly was at the plate.

I hit a hard, rising line drive toward right-center. . .maybe a game-tying double. Yee-gads. The second baseman leaped and snagged it. End of game, end of perfect season.

I was in tears. My coach, Dinky Barnes, put an arm around me and said, “If he hadn’t caught it, that ball was headed over the right field fence. Now let’s go get some ice cream.”

That’s called coaching.

3 thoughts on “OBSERVASTIONS: The day Dock Ellis went head-hunting against the Reds”

  1. Hal:

    Doc “Baby” Ellis. No comment.

    Joey Votto’s idea of wiring players ? I’ve always wondered what he’s saying when he talks to himself taking a call third strike or missing the high inside fastball. (unkind, sorry)

    Recalling the 1970 world series, Reds v. Orioles. AKA Reds starters all have sore arms.

    I think that’s the first time they had the managers “wired”.

    Game one, the infamous out call at home plate of Bernardo Carbo. Umpire Kenny Burkhart had his back to the plate and used the eyes in the back of his head. Orioles catcher (Hendricks) never had the ball in his hand when tagging Carbo.

    Wired Sparky Anderson protested vigorously yet to his credit used no profanity. Not sure the same would have been the case had it been Earl Weaver arguing that play !

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