Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of Dock Ellis’ psychedelic journey into MLB’s history books.
Easily lost in the absurdity of the achievement and the brilliance of the animation is Ellis’ address of the psychological benefit of playing high.
“That’s the way I was dealing with the fear of failure - the fear of losing, the fear of winning,” he says.
It’s the heart of every performance enhancing drugs scandal in the history of sport. Ego, money, fame – they’re all along for the ride. But fear drives the bus. Nothing motivates an individual to insanity like fear.
LSD isn’t regarded as your run of the mill PED, but think about it. What is a no hitter? As much as it is the opposition’s 0-27, it’s the crowd. It’s the timidity of the dugout. It’s the whispers and the countdown: 5 outs to go…4…3…gotta set down two before surrendering one. It’s the physical exhaustion and the psychological labyrinth: “He’s lookin’ heat. Give him the off-speed. A walk doesn’t kill ya. My arm feels like jello.”
The very essence of a no-hitter (or any feat of improbability) is everything that Dock Ellis’ outing was not. He feared nothing…except maybe the toss back from the catcher. And the Padres? They likely feared just about every windup!