DALLAS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (2014)
Greetings again from the darkness. Caught this one at the Dallas International Film Festival, and the most impressive part of director Jeff Radice’s approach is just how much he attempts to tackle. Most baseball fans immediately associate the name Dock Ellis with his much publicized 1970 no-hitter thrown while under the influence of LSD. Radice doesn’t focus on the baseball side of this story, but rather much more on the man and the times.
One must be of a certain age to have watched Dock Ellis pitch (he retired in 1979), and the era must be considered when understanding his often outspoken and arrogant behavior. Jackie Robinson had long ago broken the color barrier in baseball, but it wasn’t until the early 1970’s when things really started to change. 1971 saw the first all black and brown lineup from the Pirates (with Dock Ellis on the mound). The former players interviewed here recall the moment they noticed. The most emotional moment of the movie comes from an old radio interview where Dock is reading aloud a handwritten letter to him from Jackie Robinson.
In addition to his baseball and related antics, we get some history on his marriages, style, drug abuse and struggle to remain healthy near the end of his career. Radice scores with the numerous interviews of former teammates, as well as friends and family. Steve Blass and Bruce Kison provide a contrast to the words of Dave Cash, Mudcat Grant and Al Oliver, but the best insight comes from Ellis’ friends and family. This is where we see the hope and disappointment that Dock produced.
We also see the later years as Dock became a drug counselor and educated many on the mistakes he had made. Radice uses a 1981 movie called Dugout featuring former major league pitcher Bo Belinsky talking to little-leaguers about the importance of staying on the right track … the parallels to the career of Dock Ellis are obvious.
Some terrific game footage is used, but one of the most interesting moments occurs when Brad Corbett, Jr explains how his father (former owner of Texas Rangers) had interaction with Dock Ellis the player, and later with Dock Ellis the addiction counselor. There is also much made about “everyone” in baseball being on “greenies” (amphetemines) during the era … an interesting contrast to the steroid era. The main thing we learn is that there was much more to Dock Ellis than LSD and curlers in his hair.
Rather than a trailer (which I can’t find), here is a link to a 3 minute interview with the film’s Producer, Mike Blizzard, during the Dallas International Film Festival.