Though I’ve come to understand that these two individuals differed considerably, for a while I couldn’t get straight who was who. Certain obvious facts eluded me, such as that Dock Ellis was a black man, unlike the man pictured here, and beyond that that he was renowned for some unusual and strikingly distinguishing escapades occurring in the years just prior to the beginning of my attention to baseball. All I knew was that two guys who played the exact same position and seemed to me to have basically the same odd, cartoonish, old-timey nickname had been the main figures in what was deemed at the time to be a one-for-one trade with a couple negligible throw-ins. Doc for Dock. It made me happy.
One of those throw-ins in the trade, unfortunately, turned out to be a young second baseman named Willie Randolph. In 1976, while Doc Medich turned in a mediocre season for his new team, Willie Randolph and a resurgent Dock Ellis excelled, helping the New York Yankees end the longest pennant drought they’d ever had, not counting those golden pre-Ruthian years. Luckily the Reds kicked their ass in the 1976 World Series, but in the following season Ellis was dealt to the Oakland A’s for Mike Torrez, who helped the Yankees take the final step back to baseball supremacy with two complete game victories in their 1977 World Series triumph over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The repercussions of the Dock Ellis for Doc Medich deal continued the following year, as the Boston Red Sox, starstruck by Torrez’s post-season heroics, signed the pitcher to a free agent deal, and Torrez served up enough ill-timed meatballs to hand the fateful 1978 one-game playoff to his former team. At the conclusion of that game my brother ripped one of his beloved James Blish Star Trek
books in half. I stomped around looking for something to kick, never really found it, and in a certain sense have been looking ever since. Almost thirty years now with that vague, uncentered, I-want-to-kick-something feeling. . .
Anyway, before the Doc Medich for Dock Ellis trade occurred, the Yankees were a bunch of harmless nobodies, and the world itself was harmless, and I was such a happily ignorant young dufus that I was unable and unwilling to distinguish between Dock Ellis and Doc Medich. And by the time the last of the chain of events set in motion by the Doc Medich for Dock Ellis trade had occurred, I was begging my mom to allow me to spend my allowance on a pinstriped shirt with “Yankees” across the chest and the word “Suck” (more of a no-no back then than it is now) blaring in lurid red graffiti across the stomach. My deepest wish by that time, the thing I prayed for whenever tossing a coin into a fountain or pulling on a wishbone, was that the Red Sox win the World Series. But a fairly close second to that wish was that I be able to walk through a divided world in a “Yankees Suck” shirt as the silencing stomach punch of puberty loomed.
I like to think I’m not the only one disturbed by these changes. Maybe Doc Medich himself had some inclination that the Doc for Dock trade was going to unleash some foul cosmic repercussions.
“Aw, dude,” the grimacing just-traded Doc Medich seems to be saying here. “Who cut one?”