NO NO: A DOCKUMENTARY
(director/writer: Jeffrey Radice; cinematographer: John Fiege; editor: Sam Wainwright Douglas; music: Adam Horovitz; cast: Dock Ellis; Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mark Blizzard/Chris Cortez/Jeffrey J. Radice; The Orchard; 2014)
“A pic that in all likelihood wouldn’t have been made if Dock hadn’t pitched a no-hitter on acid and became such a national folk-hero to many.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
First-time director Jeffrey Radice tells in a straight-forward manner a compelling story about Dock Ellis, the brash, colorful and controversial big league pitcher from the late 1960s and ’70s, who is best known for tossing the only known no-hitter while he claims he was on LSD (we must believe him because there’s no one willing to verify this). This took place on June 12, 1970, in San Diego, and the acid was taken in LA with Dock not expecting to pitch that night in San Diego. It wasn’t a perfect game since several hitters reached base when they were either hit or walked, but it was a 2-0 shut-out.
Through archival footage, footage of family movies when Dock was a child, interviews with the subject himself (who died at age 63 in 2008), family members, baseball players Dock played with and several sports writers, we learn he was a good teammate, an ‘angry black man’ who received via a letter the support from Jackie Robinson for being an outspoken leader promoting racial equality, never pitched in the majors without taking some drug like Dexamyl as a stimulant, dressed flashy and considered himself the Muhammad Ali of baseball. Dock was a blithe spirit, but a flawed character who supposedly had a good heart. His greatest blemish is the serious domestic violence incident that caused his first wife to leave him. When Dock retired, he got professional treatment for his drug addiction and alcohol problem. Dock in his latter years was sorry he used drugs and became a passionate counselor for substance abuse programs.
Dock’s story in the end turns out to be an inspirational one, as it tells about how the kid from Compton used a successful baseball career to keep himself out of prison and how he became a respected intimidating pitcher for a good Pirates team, and also for a few other teams when traded as his career started to decline. Finally, he saw the light to turn over a new leaf as a reformed substance abuser.
Despite Dock’s life transformation of saying no to drugs and drink in his advancing years when they became a nightmare to him, as noted in the last segment of the film, it’s still mostly a friendly stoner pic showing Greenies as maybe a ballplayer’s best friend in a practical sense because without those pills it suggests many players probably wouldn’t have had a major league career (the players interviewed on tape estimate that maybe over eighty percent of their fellow players were pill poppers). It’s also a pic that in all likelihood wouldn’t have been made if Dock hadn’t pitched a no-hitter on acid and became such a national folk-hero to many.
REVIEWED ON 9/11/2014 GRADE: B