In 1970, Dock Ellis, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, accomplished what is unquestionably the dream of pitchers everywhere when he threw a no-hitter in a Major League baseball game.
Pitching a no-hitter is a hell of an accomplishment on its own, but what’s unique about Ellis is that he managed to do so while under the influence of LSD. Most times, we hear of people getting inspired on psychedelics and acting on their vision in the time that follows, but Ellis stands as a unique example of a feat being accomplished during the psychedelic state itself.
It seems that Ellis, on a bit of a bender, lost track of time (a whole day’s worth) and took LSD after waking up on a day he mistakenly thought he had off. In reality, he was scheduled to pitch in a game against the San Diego Padres. Ellis reported that, during the game, he often couldn’t tell which batter he was facing — all he could discern was whether they were batting right- or left-handed; at other times, he’d perceive changes in the ball’s speed or size.
We don’t often think about psychedelics as performance-enhancing drugs. Especially when it comes to professional sports, one might imagine that the perceptual distortions and changes in attention would impede one’s athletic ability. On the flipside, it is possible to enter states of one-pointed focus on psychedelics that might be conducive to such performance.
It’s hard not to talk about Ellis’ story as a sort of wild feat — after all, how crazy is it that a Major League pitcher threw a no-hitter on LSD? But Ellis himself didn’t regard it with pride. In fact, he recalled little of that day, and expressed disappointment that his use of drugs could have robbed him of his greatest professional memory.
Check out this awesome animated short by James Blagden for a well-narrated recounting of Dock Ellis’ LSD No-No: