The Blue Jays amazingly enough almost whiffed on drafting Stieb. Toronto scouted the righty at a varsity game as an outfield prospect. It was not until Stieb came into the game as a reliever that the Blue Jays were impressed and drafted him.
Stieb debuted for the Blue Jays in 1979, in hopes of helping bring the third-year franchise into relevance. In ‘77 and ‘78, Toronto won 54 and 59 games respectively. Stieb finished his rookie 8-8, a respectable start to his career. To show how tough times were in Toronto, Stieb’s eight wins tied for second on the starting staff.
As the calendar turned to 1980, Stieb began his 11-year run of excellence. From 1980-1990, the righty won 158 games while pitching to a 3.33 ERA. Six out of those 11 years Stieb won 16+ games. Stieb was selected to the All-Star team seven out of those 11 years, twice being named the American League’s starting pitcher in ‘83 and ‘84.
Despite all the victories, Stieb’s multiple near misses at baseball immortality are most eye-popping. Between 1985-89, Stieb had three no-hitters and a perfect game broken up in the ninth inning. Two of the lost no-hitters came in back-to-back starts against the Indians and Orioles on September 24 and 30, 1988. Both attempts were broken up with Stieb one strike away from becoming the first Blue Jay to toss a no-no.
Less than a year later on August 4, 1989, Stieb nearly became the 13th pitcher to pitch a perfect game. One out away from pitching himself into baseball lore, Stieb gave up a double to Yankees’ center fielder Roberto Kelly.
After coming close so many times, Stieb finally finished the deal on September 2, 1990. Facing the Indians once again, Stieb in his fifth attempt became the first Blue Jay to pitch a no-hitter in a 3-0 Toronto win at Cleveland Stadium. His no-hitter is still the only one in franchise history to date.
Every franchise at one time or another had “the guy” that put his team on the map. Tom Seaver was “the guy” for the Mets, Tony Gwynn was “the guy” for the Padres, and Dave Stieb was “the guy” for the Blue Jays. Don’t get me wrong Stieb is no Seaver, but his ability to help bring the Blue Jays out of the black hole of irrelevance should be cherished in Toronto for years to come.
Before diving into the details of this seemingly impossible feat, why was Ellis on LSD during his start in the first place? Well, the Pirates had an off-day Thursday before a Friday doubleheader with Ellis slated to pitch the first game at 6:00. Ellis chose to spend the day off by heading up to his friend’s girlfriend’s house in Los Angeles.
Before leaving the airport, Ellis took a hit of acid. After arriving in Tinseltown, Ellis continued taking hits of LSD. Waking up on Friday still thinking it was Thursday, Ellis took another hit of acid. It was not until his friend’s girlfriend showed him the newspaper that Ellis realized he better get back to San Diego.
High as a kite, Ellis made it to the stadium 90 minutes before first pitch. As for the game itself, Ellis was understandably erratic, walking eight batters while hitting another. Ellis recalled jumping out of the way of an apparent line drive. It turns out the ball was not hit hard and or even near him. Ellis also remembered the ball seeming small at some points, and large at others.
But wait, there’s more.
“I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate,” Ellis recalled.
The guy is pitching a no-hitter, he definitely has butterflies in his belly, right? Wrong. The LSD gave Ellis a feeling of euphoria throughout his dominant day on the mound.
Perhaps what is most astonishing is that Ellis said he could not feel the ball. So much for your pitching coach telling you to focus on your grips.
There have been 303 no-hitters in MLB history, and the fact that Dock Ellis threw one of them while high as a Georgia pine is nothing short of remarkable.