Dock Ellis was a 6'3" right handed, switch-hitting pitcher from Los Angeles, California. Born March 11, 1945, he was signed by the Pirates as a free agent in 1964 out of Gardena High School (in Gardena, CA). He made his professional debut later that year with the "A" level New York Penn League Batavia Pirates, posting a 6-7 record with a 3.20 ERA. He spent most of 1965 with the "A" level Kinston Eagles out of the Carolina League (14-8, 1.95), earning a short look with the "AAA" Columbus Jets, in the International League.
1966 would see Ellis spend the season with the "AA" Asheville Tourists in the Southern League (10-9, 2.76). 1967 was spent between the Macon Peaches, also of the "AA" Southern League (2-0, 2.81), and the Jets (5-7, 4.59). After going 2-1 through parts of 19 games with Columbus in 1968, he would get a look at the Major League level in mid-June.
Ellis' first callup would be his last, and he would pitch in the majors for the next 12 seasons. He went 6-5 through the rest of 1968, with a 2.50 ERA, allowing only 82 hits through 104.1 innings pitched and finishing with a 1.150 WHIP. On September 16th, he allowed three hits and five walks, striking out three and allowing a single run in a 6-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. On his next turn, on September 21st, he allowed five hits and three walks, striking out one and again allowing only one run in a 5-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. Despite a strong team ERA of 2.74, the Pirates finished the season 80-82, good for sixth place in the 10 team National League.
1969 would see Ellis graduate to the rotation full time. He finished eight of his 33 starts, posting an 11-17 record with a 3.58 ERA. He struck out a career high 173 batters in 218.2 innings pitched, ranking him ninth in the NL with 7.12 strikeouts per nine innings. On June 22nd, he struck out 10, allowing one walk and six hits in a 6-0 complete game win over the Phillies. It was one of four times he struck out at least 10 batters on the season and one of two shutouts. The 88-74 Pirates finished third in the new NL East, 12 games behind the first place New York "Miracle" Mets.
In 1970, Ellis completed nine of his 30 starts. He posted a 13-10 record with an NL third best 3.21 ERA, pitching 201.2 innings. On April 9th, he struck out 13, allowing five walks and five hits in a 2-1 win over the Mets. He pitched a no-hitter on June 12th, striking out six and walking eight in a 2-0 win over the San Diego Padres. He later claimed to have accomplished the feat while under the influence of LSD.
According to Ellis:
I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the [catcher's] glove, but I didn't hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters, and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't. Sometimes, I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn't hit hard and never reached me.
July 9th would see him toss a five hit shutout, walking two and striking out 10 in a 6-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. On the 24th of July, he pitched a four hit shutout, walking two and striking out seven as the Pirates shut down the Houston Astros, 11-0. The Pirates posted an 89-73, NL East clinching record. Ellis pitched game one of the NLCS, limiting the Reds to six hits, three walks and a goose egg through nine innings before allowing three runs in the 10th. The Bucs ended up losing the NLCS to Cincinnati in three straight games.
1971 would see Ellis complete 11 of his 31 starts, compiling a 19-9 record (good for fifth most wins) with a 3.06 ERA. He was invited to his first (and only) all-star game, and also finished fourth on the year ending NL Cy Young Award voting. He allowed 207 hits in 226.2 innings pitched, allowing 15 home runs. On June 1st, he pitched a complete game, 9-0 win over the Cardinals, allowing two walks and three hits while striking out four. His 1.191 WHIP, 8.2 hits allowed per nine innings, and 2.17 SO/BB all led the Pirates. Pittsburgh won the NL East by seven games with a 97-65 record. He earned a victory in game two of the NLCS, a 9-4 win over the San Francisco Giants. He allowed six hits and four walks in five innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out one. The Pirates won the series in four games. He started game one of the World Series, losing to the Baltimore Orioles, 5-3. Ellis allowed a walk and four hits for four earned runs, striking out one in 2.1 innings. He did not appear again that postseason as the Pirates took all seven contests to dispatch the O's.
In 1972, Ellis went 15-7 with a 2.70 ERA. He finished four of his 25 starts, allowing only 33 walks and six home runs in 163.1 innings. He led the team with an NL fourth least 1.818 walks given up per nine innings, and led the NL with his 0.331 home runs allowed per nine. He had his best game of the season on June 7th, allowing two hits, a walk and one hit batsmen, striking out three in a 1-0 complete game victory over the Padres. 96-59 would give the Bucs an 11 game cushion over the second place Cubs in the NL East. The Reds beat the Pirates in the NLCS, three games to two. Ellis lost game four, allowing three unearned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out three over five innings in a 7-1 Reds victory.
Ellis again led the senior circuit in home runs allowed per nine innings in 1973, with a 0.328 rate (seven allowed over 192 innings pitched. He posted his first losing record in five years, going 12-14 with a 3.05 ERA, finishing three of his 28 starts. On June 18th, he earned a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs, allowing three hits and one earned run with zero walks and eight strikeouts. Two starts later, he pitched a complete game shutout, giving up five hits and striking out five as the Pirates beat the Cardinals, 6-0 on June 28th. Despite their 80-82 record, the Bucs only missed out on the NL East Division title by 2.5 games, finishing in third behind the Mets and the Cards.
In 1974, Ellis went 12-9 with a 3.16 ERA, finishing nine of his 26 starts on the season. He allowed only 41 walks in 176.2 innings pitched, good for an NL third best 2.089 allowed per nine innings. He also ranked seventh in the league with a 1.155 WHIP. He allowed one earned run on a walk and three hits, striking out three in a 2-1 win over the Montreal Expos on September 6th. The Pirates finished the season with an 88-74 record, winning the NL East by 1.5 games. The Dodgers defeated the Pirates three games to one in the NLCS. Ellis did not appear in the postseason.
1975 would see Ellis post an 8-9 record with a 3.79 ERA for the Pirates. He finished five of his 24 starts (of 27 total appearances). For the first time in his career, he allowed more than a hit per inning, finishing the season at 10.5 allowed per nine. On April 27th, he allowed six hits and walked none, striking out five as the Pirates beat the Phillies, 2-0. June 22nd would see him allow a walk and five hits with four strikeouts in a 2-0 win over the Mets. Pittsburgh won the NL East by 6.5 games over the Phillies with a 92-69 record. Ellis allowed two hits and struck out two in two innings of postseason play as the Pirates were swept by the Reds in three games. After the season, he was traded along with Ken Brett and Willie Randolph to the New York Yankees for Doc Medich.
After spending 1976 and part of 1977 with the Yankees (18-9, 3.07), Ellis went on to appear for the Oakland Athletics (1-5, 9.69), the Texas Rangers (20-18, 3.82), and the New York Mets (3-7, 6.04 ERA). The Pirates bought him back from the Mets to close out the 1979 season. Ellis appeared in three games for the Bucs, allowing nine hits, two walks, and two runs in seven innings. He was granted free agency after the season, and did not appear for any professional organizations afterward.
Ellis later recounted his career, admitting to a substance abuse problem. He never pitched while not under the influence of something. He went clean and sober after retirement, working as a drug counselor at prisons in Pittsburgh and California. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in December of 2008.
All-Time Statline: Nine seasons, 96-80, 3.16 ERA, 231 games, 208 starts, 51 CG, 12 shutouts, 1430.1 innings pitched, 1356 hits allowed, walked 438, struck out 869, 1.254 WHIP, 11.7 wins above replacement.