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America's Favorite Pastime: A Song About Dock Ellis and His Infamous No-Hitter

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Dock Ellis is a deceased former Pirates' pitcher who passed away nearly five years ago. Todd Snider is a 46-year-old singer-songwriter from Portland, Oregon, who plays country-tinged rock-n-roll. What are these two doing in the same article on a sports web site?

Snider’s 2009 song “America’s Favorite Pastime” chronicles the day in 1970 that Ellis threw a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates… while under the influence of LSD. Ellis, who forgot was pitching that afternoon, took LSD early in the day yet still managed to pitch the game of his life, despite—in Ellis’s own words—not being able to feel the ball or see the batters or his own catcher clearly. PSR Editor Tony DeFazio spoke with Snider about the song.

Tony: What was it about Dock’s story that made you want to write a song about it?
Todd: I just always like it when a screwball delivers. I like it when unprepared people have luck.

The idea for that song came about at a festival over the summer, and there were about seven bands playing outside, and that’s where everybody gets to meet each other. We were all in this tent, a bunch of different bands, and one of the younger bands had taken acid to go do their show. And we were joking about how our job was probably the only job where you could do that and get away with it, and somebody brought up that a pitcher had done it. I was fascinated immediately and thought maybe I could make up a song about it. So then I found the box score and wrote the song that way, just looking at the box score.

Tony: You’ve written about other people who have kind of walked a blurry line with the law – D.B. Cooper, Mike Tyson and others. Is that what drew you to Dock Ellis?
Todd: I really do like people like that, in sports the people like Tonya Harding, Dennis Rodman, the tennis players who go nuts. Mike Tyson is probably my favorite athlete because I just like the show. I’m there for the show. I like hockey but when the fight breaks out it’s great. When the car wreck happens it’s great and I don’t see why we should act like it isn’t. I like it when they’re different. But now a tattoo means you’re probably bland and from the suburbs. The really scary bikers now don’t have any tattoos.

Click HERE to watch Todd Snider sing "America's Favorite Pastime"
Dock Ellis didn’t think he would pitch that day back in 1970
When he and his wife took a trip to the ballpark a little bit differently
So by the time he hit the bullpen half the world had melted away
That’s about the time Coach Murtaugh said. “Hey Dock you're pitching today.”

Taking the ground the mound turned into the icing on a birthday cake
The lead-off man came up and turned into a dancing rattle snake
The crowd tracked back and forth in waves of color under the sun
The ball turned into a silver bullet, his arm into a gun…Pirates

Three up, three down for three straight innings in a zero-zero tie
As all those batters' names came ringing from some voice out of the sky
Hallucinating Halloween scenes each new swing of the bat
His sinker looked like it was falling off a table but nobody was hallucinating that…

By the top of the fifth he was up one to nothing and giving the Padres fits
By the top of the seventh he was up two to nothing and they still hadn’t got any hits
With one out left to go in the game the batter looked like a little child
The birthday caking was shaking and those waves of color were going wild

When he finally mowed the last man down he was high as he had ever been
Laughing to the sound of the world going around completely unaware of the win
And while the papers would say he was scattered that day, he was pretty as a pitcher could be
The day Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates threw a no hitter on LSD…

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