Doc Medich

February 21, 2007

On December 11, 1975, Doc Medich was traded for Dock Ellis.

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?”

One comment

  1. 1.  4 comments from the old CG site:

    Michael said…
    I can’t think of Dock Ellis without immediately thinking, “No Hitter on LSD!”

    I’ve never seen, on TV or live, or heard on the radio, or replayed one on the tabletop, a no hitter. (I’ve seen pieces of them, but never a whole one.)

    And he got one stoned.

    12:19 PM

    Josh Wilker said…
    One day, if the gods will it and/or if I end my 20-year boycott of LSD, I hope to broach the gargantuan subject of Dock Ellis. (In preparation I am currently reading Donald Hall’s “Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball.”) For now I just want to say that I don’t necessarily see LSD as a hindrance to pitching a no-hitter. In my experience, it sometimes made even the simplest tasks ridiculously, hilariously confusing, but on other occasions, including a couple times playing basketball, it seemed to work on me like Obiwan Kenobi’s voice worked on Luke Skywalker as he made his final approach on the weak spot of the Death Star. Turn off the computer and Trust the Force, Dock.

    12:54 PM

    pete millerman said…
    When you’re eleven years old, and the team you’ve rooted for since birth is free-falling through a biblically fallow seven-year cycle of decay (that in youth seemeth eternal), you grasp for whatever straws you can.

    After my childhood effectively ended with the events of June 15th 1977, I developed the same jaded, envy-stained bitterness that plagues me into adulthood, much like Josh’s desire-to-kick-something.

    Henceforth, whenever the Mets somehow acquired a known quantity, a player who had experienced some modest measure of success elsewhere, – a .275 lifetime batting average on the back of a piece of cardboard, a 19-win season, a ring… – I was seized with a renewed hope bred in the pitiful naivete of a mind otherwise preoccupied with the miracles-can-occur comings and goings of Galactus, the Silver Surfer, and Chief Jay Strongbow.

    With each Richie Hebner, Claudell Washington and (oh the joy!) George Foster the Mets signed, dreams of contention sprang eternal.

    Only to be dashed of course. That’s how it goes.

    When I heard the Mets picked up ‘Doc’ Medich late in the ’77 season, I was semi-convinced that he could maybe, maybe combine with Pat Zachary and some young call-up from Tidewater to replace Seaver, and energize the (very few) casual Mets fans at school who hadn’t turned coat to the suddenly hip and exciting Yankees.

    Medich pitched one game as a Met, lost, and resurfaced in the AL West – ie: never to be heard from again.

    When the legendary Dock Ellis was acquired halfway through the excruciating ’79 season, I was sure that he would perform heroically, and give the Mets that dynamic clubhouse presence that we were missing post-Lenny Randle.

    Dock went 3-7, with an ugly 6.04 ERA, and was for all intentions through in the big leagues. Or would have been, but for the overweaning compassion of Mets GM Joe McDonald, who sold Ellis back to the Pirates in late September; presumably so he could participate in one last cocaine binge in the champagne-soaked clubhouse where he’d earned his outlaw reputation, and enjoy one last (non-rostered) blowout and pas de deux on the dugout roof.

    (sigh) I even sported a Red Sox cap in the late ’70s, such was my hatred for the Yankees and empathy for Rick Burleson, but that’s another story. I always clung to the Mets for some reason. Doc and Dock and Kelvin Chapman and false- hope-springs-eternal be damned.

    There’s a picture of me at Cooperstown, where they have all of the no-hit balls on display, pointing gleefuly at Dock Ellis’ “pitched a no-hitter on acid” artifact. That shit just doesn’t happen anymore. It was just a…. colorful era…man…

    1:39 PM

    pete said…
    …as an addendum, I’ll posit the theory that ‘Doc’ Medich likely earned his MD from the University of Pittsburgh, dilligently studying anatomy and physiology every offseason, and in one well-documented anecdote ran into the grandstand at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore to valiantly perform heart massage on a coronary victim.

    ‘Dock’ Ellis, on the other hand, presumably garnered his moniker through his gratuitous “acting out.”
    A litany of his shenanigans could fill a book (and did), but I would venture to guess that between antagonizing the press, instigating brawls, agitating for social change during many a night that stretched into the wee hours, experimenting with contraband, getting arrested, and wearing curlers on the field at Three Rivers Stadium, Ellis probably found his salary “Docked” more than once during his professional tenure.

    God Bless ‘im.

    10:45 AM

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