If you know the name Dock Ellis, it’s probably because of a particularly unorthodox athletic — and medical! — achievement he accomplished in 1970. In the history of professional baseball, there have been 282 no-hitters. Only one of them, as far as we know, was pitched while under the influence of LSD. On June 12, 1970, Ellis, then playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, tossed a no-hitter against the Padres after dropping acid. If Ellis’s admission of being under the influence isn’t conclusive enough, the box score supports his claim: he beaned three batters and walked eight!
But Ellis was more than just some far-out oddball who must have struggled to remember his greatest moment — though he never grew tired of telling the no-hitter story. As a player, he advocated for African-American ballplayers, pushed for player free-agency, and despite his own struggles with substance abuse, he sobered up in retirement and became a counselor for other addicts. In No No: A Dockumentary, which premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 20, director Jeffrey Radice paints a fuller picture of the man, on and off the field. “Dock was very outspoken and a friend of Muhammad Ali in that era where there was so much work still to be done in the civil rights area,” says Trevor Groth, Sundance’s director of programing. “He was this really larger than life character that, I think, even the people who know that one anecdote, don’t really have a sense of who he was and the impact he made. And I think this film will do justice to his legacy.”
The Dock-umentary has some eclectic collaborators, with the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horowitz providing the original score, and a vibrant poster from artist Ernesto Yerena (and advised upon by Shepard Fairey and Glen E. Friedman).