Dock Ellis, a pitcher famous for reportedly tossing a no-hitter while on LSD, passed away yesterday. He’ll be remembered for his battles with drug addictions and subsequent anti-drug activism, but for a brief moment in time, he was a member of the Yankees.
In a way, Dock Ellis was an incidental and accidental piece of the Yankees’ late-1970s success. He was on the Yanks for all of 1976 and 19.2 innings in 1977. Along the way, he was involved in two instrumental trades and had a season quite odd in the annals of baseball.
The 1976 season saw George Steinbrenner’s passion for winning build. Following a third-place finish in 1975, he retooled the Yanks by bringing in Ellis, Willie Randolph and Ken Brett in exchange for Doc Medich. Ellis would win 17 games in 1976 but also managed to pull off the rare feat of walking more hitters than he struck out. His only World Series appearance that year was an ugly start in Game 3.
A few weeks into the 1977 season, Ellis, persona non grata around the Yanks due to his drug problems, was shipped off to the Athletics in exchange for Mike Torrez. Torrez would go onto win 14 games for the Yanks and two more in the World Series that year.
I never got to see Dock Ellis pitch. He was on the Yanks before I was born, and all I know of him come through stories. Jay Jaffe, however, saw and loved Ellis. Check out his take on the former Yankee and one-time troubled baseball soul.