With all due respect to the Sultan Of Sloth’s claim of pitching a perfect game while drunk, Dock Ellis’ 1970 no-hitter while on LSD ranks as one of the all-time amazing achievements in sports history. Sadly, Ellis tells the New York Post’s Brian Costello that he’s currently suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.
“It’s pretty bad,” Ellis said in a phone interview last week. “I spend more time itching than anything because that goes with the cirrhosis. I just try to take it slow.”
The 63-year-old does not have much choice. Since being diagnosed the day after Thanksgiving, Ellis has deteriorated rapidly. He spends most of his days lying in bed or on the couch of his Apple Valley, Calif. home. He no longer can drive and the disease has wiped him out.
“He’s fatigued at all times and he’s lost his appetite,” Ellis’ wife of 23 years, Hjordis, said. “I’ve watched my husband lose over 60 pounds since November. He has very serious bouts of delusion. He’s very emotional and he cries a lot. That’s something I never thought I’d see.”
Ellis pitched 12 years in the big leagues, including stints with the Yankees and Mets. He is best known for his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, helping the Bucs win the 1971 World Series with a 19-9 record.
Ellis never fit the model of a ballplayer with his outspoken and outlandish behavior. He spoke up for the rights of black players and fought for free agency. He also infamously pitched a no-hitter while on LSD and showed up in the dugout one day with curlers in his hair.
He battled alcoholism until 1980 when he checked into rehab and kicked the habit. Ellis went on to become a drug counselor.
His old habit may have caught up to him, though, last Thanksgiving when he began shaking and having delusions during the family’s dinner.
“I was shaking like a leaf, bobbing and weaving like Joe Frazier,” Ellis said with a chuckle. “I didn’t know who I was.”