November 12, 2009
The next time someone compiles a list of the greatest baseball films ever, the work won't be complete until it includes this 4-1/2 minute animated short by artist James Blagden. It's a moment-by-moment imagining of the time in 1970 when Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Dock Ellis, so he famously claimed, pitched a no-hitter while tripping on acid.
Brought to light by the sports and culture site No Mas, the film is a surreal trip in itself. And no psychedelic drugs are needed to enjoy it to the fullest.
It uses audio — which is precious to begin with — of Ellis telling the story himself on an NPR program broadcast in March of 2008. It reveals some interesting details, such as Ellis getting his stimulants (which he claimed were used by "90 percent of the major leagues") from a female dealer in the stands at Jack Murphy Stadium before the game at San Diego.
Blagden isn't short on complementary touches, either, such as putting curlers in Ellis' hair — as the flamboyant pitcher was known to do. Details like that indicate how much Blagden loved making this movie.
Following the spoken word and the music, the film completes a Dock Ellis trilogy, of sorts. Earlier this season, we told you about a song based on Ellis' infamous trip by Todd Snider called "America's Favorite Pastime." Snider's album got great reviews; the film is no less worthy. Let's get some Oscar buzz going right now.
Sadly, Ellis died last year after long-ago turning his life around, becoming a drug counselor. How much he would have tripped, in a good way this time, seeing this movie.