Former MLB pitcher Dock Ellis dies at 63

By Tom Singer
Updated: December 20, 2008

NEW YORK — Dock Philip Ellis, whose rich pitching talents were obscured by his role as a controversial and colorful leader of the eccentric fringe of ’70s baseball, is dead at 63. reported the former right-hander’s death in California on Friday from a liver ailment, confirming the news with Ellis’ former agent, Tom Reich.

Ellis, who broke in with the 1968 Pirates and pitched for four other teams, retired in 1979 with a record of 138-119 — including a 1970 no-hitter in San Diego that he later claimed to have pitched while on the hallucinogen LSD.

Diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, Ellis went on a waiting list for a liver transplant seven months ago.

Despite frequent outrageous behavior and incendiary statements, Ellis, a lean 6-foot-3 power pitcher, had a winning run with the Pirates (96-80) before spending the second half of his career journeying from the Yankees (18-9) to the A’s (1-5) to the Rangers (20-21) and the Mets (3-7).

He ended his career where it began, returning to the Bucs to make his final start in the night cap of a doubleheader on Sept. 24, 1979.

Capturing Ellis’ essence, his biographer, Donald Hall, titled the story of his life, “Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball.”

According to his post-career agent, Ellis spent his last years working for the California Department of Corrections to aid released inmates’ switch back into community life, along with helping administer a Los Angeles drug counseling center.

“Dock Ellis was my first client in baseball, and he gave me as much joy as anybody outside of my family,” Reich, who was based in Pittsburgh when Ellis came to prominence with the Pirates, told

“He was so unique. He was viewed by some people as an outlaw, but he was far from that. He was so ahead of his time. He was so intuitive and smart and talented and independent. And he wasn’t about to roll over for the incredible prejudices that existed at the time.

“He was a very special person and he had an absolute army of fans and friends. He was at the cutting edge of so many issues, and he never backed down. I was proud to be his friend and stand with him.”

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