SIR, HAVE YOU SEEN MY 'DOGS?
In 1969 a black nineteen-year-old pitcher from Los Angeles reported to the Pittsburgh Pirates' single-A affiliate in Batavia for duty. He had had a couple of problems in rookie training camp in Florida with some of the good old boys that were still taking their cues from Ty Cobb and Cap Anson. Their casting of anachronistic epithets toward Ellis landed him in a few fistfights before he got out of there. After arriving in Batavia he was starting in his first professional game against Geneva, when some clown in the stands shouted something about "Stepin Fetchit." Ellis went after him with a leaded baseball bat. Batavia's manager and couple players had to go into the grandstand and get Ellis off the redneck.
Ellis went on to enjoy an exemplary big league career, most of in Pittsburgh. Pitching for the National League in the 1971 All-Star game in Detroit , he served a fatty to future Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson and Jackson hit the ball into the stratospherically high right field lighting rig for what has became a legendary home run.
That humiliation Ellis suffered in Detroit was evidently still smarting five years later when he was pitching for the Yankees in a game against Jackson's new team, the Orioles. Jackson shouted a challenge at Ellis from the dugout over a play they hadn't even involved Jackson. When Jackson came to the plate later Yankees' catcher Thurman Munson came out to the mound to make sure Ellis hadn't missed Jackson's slight. Ellis told Munson to get his fat butt behind the plate, not to bother with any signals and to him watch him work. Then Ellis threw a pitch at Jackson's face that put Jackson on the disabled list for 28 games. Ellis claims there were three $100 bills taped to his locker after the game.
Pitching for Pittsburgh against Cincinnati one game, Dock Ellis, in what is likely still the record, purposely hit the first three Reds' batters just because he wasn't happy with the passive attitude of his own teammates.
Makes the Piazza/Clemens rivalry sound like Bobby and Peter Brady fighting over the last Popsicle.
Surely Ellis' most impressive feat occurred in San Diego, June 12, 1970. Ellis had been in his hometown of Los Angeles during a Pirates' West Coast road trip. He had lost track of day somewhere and woke up in Los Angeles the morning of the first game of a series in San Diego. It was Friday, the day of his next scheduled start. Ellis, thinking it was Thursday, took at hit of acid. Somewhere in route to San Diego Ellis came to the realization that he was working that day. He went on to throw an eight-walk no-hitter against the Padres. Something he didn't admit to having accomplished while on LSD until years later.
What this has to do with today's Muckdogs is clear. They offer a grand opportunity for us see future big league greatness before the players are tainted with the stain of greed and extortion at the expense of the loyal fans.
I asked Muckdogs' starting pitcher Lee Gwaltney if he thought he could throw a no-hitter under the influence of a powerful hallucinogen, "I don't know. I've never taken acid," he announced. Then he turned and ran to the team's clubhouse.
Muckdogs' PA announcer Wayne Fuller, who used to do radio play-by-play for Buffalo's indoor soccer Stallions, remembers the Ellis era in Batavia, "That was before the drug days," said Fuller. Then he switches on his mike and smoothly reads an ad for a Batavia tavern, T.F. Brown's: "For Fun, Fantastic, Food, it's T.F. Brown's. You can also see the girl give head to a bottle." Only he had switched his mic off for the last part of that. Then he described, off-mic, a recent, fairly innocent impromptu performance by a young lady at said tavern. I asked him if he ever fucked up and left his mic on for one of his sidebars. He laughed as if to say "yes" but said, "No".
Fuller also used to work for Trailways Bus lines and affirmed the authenticity of Tom Sartori's Greyhound ticket to Indiana. "Did you guys really pay fifty bucks for that?" I admitted that we had and he squinted and said, "That's nonrefundable."
The Dwyer Stadium press box usually accommodates about six people, working the scoreboard, the sound system, covering the game for the local paper. They have more fun than most of the paying customers. While watching a 12" TV they come up with alternate applications for T.F. Brown's FFF theme, like Fabulous Fake Felatio. The sound guy, Paul Bisig, plays classic George Carlin routines over the PA when there is an unusually long delay in the game. When the other team changes pitchers mid-inning he'll put on Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady".
When the Pope was in Toronto recently, Fuller was watching a TV news clip on the visit and said, "You know that movie "Weekend at Bernie's"? That's what the Pope is like now."
Despite the party vibe in the press box the 'Dogs of the field can't get their groove back of late. They seem tethered to .500 territory. They'll take off on a four game win streak here or there but the bottom line is that they've lost 12 of their last 17.
Carlos Cabrera (7-1, 2.64 ERA) and Erick Arteaga (3-1 2.57ERA) continue to flourish on the mound. The offense has been here today and gone tomorrow for several weeks with notable consistency coming only from catcher and utility fielder Mark McRoberts, who leads the team in batting with a .313 average and HRs with 4.
The 'Dogs are now three games below even and ten games behind the league and division leading Auburn Doubledays.
Upcoming Home games:
16- Jamestown (Florida Marlins' Affiliate)
18-20 New Jersey (Cardinals' Affiliate)
25,26- Mahoning Valley, OH (Indians' Affiliate)
30- Lowell, MA (Red Sox' Affiliate)
Mon-Sat game time is 7:05 PM; Sunday's games are at 4:05 PM.