On this Date in History: A pitcher throwing a no-hitter is quite an accomplishment as going through an entire Major League line-up without giving up a single hit to big league hitters is quite difficult. Typically, it happens 2 or 3 times in any given season. Every now and then a pitcher not only denies any hits, but he also issues no walks, does not hit a batter and his teammates to do give up an error. That would mean that 27 men came to the plate and 27 men went back to the dugout. Perfect games are pretty rare, though Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden pulled off the feat this year against the Tampa Bay Rays and there were two others as well, which is very odd.
Most of the time, a no-hitter is celebrated. There have been some interesting ones that end up with a pitcher giving up zero hits but still losing the game. Then there was the time that Nolan Ryan no-hit the Tigers in 1973 (box score). Ryan was one of the hardest throwers in baseball history and racked up 5,714 strikeouts in his storied career. He had 7 no-hitters, 12 one-hitters and 18 two-hitters. Early in his career, he was wild and so batters had a sense of fear going against a guy who wasn’t too accurate with his pitches that often reached 100 mph. In the 6-0 victory, Ryan struck out 17 Tigers but walked 4, which wasn’t too bad considering he walked 8 in his next no-hitter. But, he was just wild enough to keep the Tigers on edge. In the 9th inning, the Tigers’ Norm Cash came to the plate with a sawed off table leg as a bat. “I wasn’t going to hit him anyway,” explained Cash.
Now, Ryan was naturally a little wild but he was always in control of his emotions and his focus. The same can’t be said of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Dock Ellis. When the right-hander took to the hill in San Diego on this date in 1970 he sported a pedestrian 4-4 record. In his four losses, his lack of control was a key reason for the team’s defeat. Wildness was certainly a hall mark of this game as well except for the final 3 innings. Observers say that Ellis’ concentration suddenly became laser like and he only allowed one baserunner over the last 3 frames. The thing is that Ellis did not even know he was going to pitch that night. He thought that he wasn’t going to pitch until the next day. So, what exactly does a big leaguer do on an off day?
Well, the Pirates had finished a series in San Francisco on Wednesday June 10th and after the game, the team flew to San Diego where they were to start a weekend series on Friday June 12, 1970, hence the team was off on Thursday. So, after the team arrived in San Diego, Ellis decided it was a good time to take a couple of trips. First he dropped acid and then drove to Los Angeles to spend the team’s off day with friends. He was up until all hours of the night drinking screw drivers and smoking dope. When he woke up around noon, he promptly took another hit of acid. He figured that it was a good thing to do since he was not going to pitch until Friday. What Dock Ellis didn’t know was that it was Friday. Ellis had slept all day Thursday. About an hour after venturing into his second inning of Purple Haze, his girlfriend informed him that he was scheduled to pitch that night. Whoops! So, he caught a quick flight from LA to San Diego and arrived in time for the game. What’s a guy to do who is tripping on LSD before he starts throwing 90 mph fastballs to batters? Should you call in sick? Nope; can’t let the team down. Dock decided it was a good idea to load up on 6 amphetimines!
Ellis recalled later, “I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched.” I suppose he’s lucky that he didn’t have a “bad trip” because Ellis says that he had a “feeling of euphoria” and was “zeroed in on the cather’s glove.” Ellis admitted though that he did not hit the catcher’s mitt too much. See, Ellis hit one batter and walked 8 others. After 6 innings the count was one hit batter and 7 walks! Of the 9 total baserunners, 3 successfully stole bases off him, but no one crossed the plate…and no one registered a base hit. But, Ellis doesn’t remember much of that either. He recalls the bases being loaded a couple of times and he remembers hitting the batter…but that’s about it. What he does remember is the hallucinations he had while on the mound and most observers say that its a miracle that he not only pitched a no-hitter but also did not hurt or kill anyone. As it turns out, Ellis can thank Willie Stargell for his success as the slugger hit two solo homeruns to secure the 2-0 win. This was truly an ugly no-hitter that has only gotten uglier 40 years later when it is now known that Dock Ellis threw the only LSD aided No-Hitter in Major League History.
Weather Bottom Line: Saturday morning featured that little shortwave that I had mentioned yesterday. As I had suspected it was mainly just a rain event with perhaps some thunder. It will continue to be warm and humid throughout the day. The next disturbance on Saturday morning was well out to the west so it fits that we get our next best chance of rain late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. The timing will also limit the severe potential but heavy rain in spots is possible. After that, I suspect that this unsettled pattern will stick around for a few days so get used to the unseasonably warm and humid conditions with periods of rain and t’storms passing through from time to time.