RIP DOCK ELLIS

It seems as if the last few weeks have been filled with an inordinate amount of news about folks’ untimely passing. Some are celebrities, some are friends, some are co-workers or friends of friends of mine … it certainly seemed in the last week as if there were far too many sad Facebook status updates by my friends honoring folks they knew who were gone too soon …

Maybe it’s something about December. My mother and three of my four grandparents all passed away in December (two of them, in fact, on Dec. 15).

However, I was definitely shaken, for some reason, by the news this morning of the passing at age 63 of former pitcher Dock Ellis.
Dock Ellis in Dunedin in the late 1980s.jpg

I’d been a fan of the colorful Pittsburgh hurler as a kid, even before I knew some of the more unusual stories behind some of his on-the-field (and off-the-field) exploits.

And shortly into my then-budding career as a sportswriter I had the pleasure of getting to chat with him at a spring training game in Dunedin, Florida (I can’t pinpoint the year but it would have been late 1980s) … he was just there in stands taking in BP and when I approached him to chat he could not have been nicer, more of a gentleman, and taken more time just to talk some baseball.

Talking to Dock Ellis in Dunedin.jpgAs a voracious reader, I have a bookshelf filled with baseball books of all shapes, sizes and, admittedly, quality. But I can say without reservation that the book that Ellis co-authored with Donald Hall, Dock Ellis In The Country Of Baseball is outstanding, a true must-read. Originally penned in 1976, an updated paperback version was published in 1989 with some very interesting post-scripts by the author. Most notably, in the original book, Ellis and Hall talk of his having pitched his 1970 no-hitter against San Diego drunk on screwdrivers. In truth, as is now known, he was actually tripping on acid. The story behind the decision to “creatively edit” is an interesting one and, frankly, certainly not the first or the last time the “truth” may have been played with a bit in a player’s biography/autobiography.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough and, in fact, I am looking forward to honoring Ellis’ memory this weekend by re-reading it … I’m overdue.

RIP Dock.

5 Comments

That sounds like a great read thanks for recommending that to everyone! I’ll be doing a lot of driving this summer so I will make sure to grab a copy.
Tom
http://rockymountainway.mlblogs.com

Thanks for recommending the book. I think when people die near the holiday season we feel their lost even more. I’m sorry to hear of Dock’s passing.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Love that book! It’s been awhile since I’ve visited it as well, although I still remember the hysterically funny and functionally useless “pop-up drill.” My recollection was the Ellis of the book was an athlete who resented being pigeonholed as a one-trick-pony-jock, militant black man, or just an oddball. At any rate, I second the motion of this being a great read, particularly as a snapshot of the social turbulence that marked the 60s and 70s.

Co-author Donald Hall (American Poet Laureate, BTW) wrote a (regrettably short) collection of essays titled “Fathers Playing Catch with Sons” that is a treat as well. Here is an audio link of Hall discussing his love for baseball: www(dot)npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4130843

Another book presumably about baseball, but really a fascinating analysis of race relations in the setting of the road to the Fall Classic, is Dave Halberstam’s “October 1964.” My favorite sections are those dealing with HOFamer Bob Gibson. BTW, the book also includes a small, yet memorable snapshot of what Jim Bouton was like as a competitor–a facet rarely noted in light of his literary fame.

Happy Holidays everyone! . . .BeesGal

Another GREAT book addressing race/baseball is Shut Out by Howard Bryant, who wrote about the history of the Red Sox interweaved with a social history of Boston … I was lucky enough to get to read this in 2002 as a judge for that year’s CASEY award (for best baseball book), an award it deservedly won … here is a link for anyone interested, it is SO worth reading!

http://www.amazon.com/Shut-Out-Howard-Bryant/dp/0807009792/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1230057300&sr=8-1

Looks like a winner. Thanks Lisa. It makes me wonder if Ted Williams acknowledgment of Negro League ballplayers in his HOF speech was in memory of Pumpsie Green and Boston’s “flea market of racism.” . . .BeesGal

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