October 20th, 2016

Max’s View

No No: A Dockumentary
Drugs destroyed baseball.

Cheaters like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds transformed dirty needles into home runs at the expense of fairness and decency. To this day, A-Rod continues to sully the record books with his drug-tainted milestones.

I don’t believe any of that.

When people denigrate modern baseball, their implication seems to be that MLB before steroids was a time when clean, wholesome players competed like respectable gentlemen.

The outrageously entertaining, family-unfriendly documentary “No No” shines some light on the drug-fueled truth about Major League Baseball in the 1970s.

The title refers to the both the subject – All-star pitcher Dock Ellis. And his most famous achievement – throwing a notorious no-hitter.

How the heck do you throw a notorious no-no? This is how. Picture it: June 12, 1970, San Diego, California. Dock is awakened by a girl he has been partying with. She informs him that he has to rush to the ballpark to get ready for his start against the Padres. “But I’m pitching tomorrow,” he says. “No. Look at the paper. You’re pitching tonight.” Dock is befuddled. “What happened to yesterday?”

Dock Ellis was on a multi-day LSD bender. But he pulled himself together and pitched a complete game no-hitter while tripping on acid.

How did he do it? Same way he did it on any number of occasions he pitched drunk, high, and hung over; he did it with greenies.

Greenies (dexamyl) were amphetamine pills that ballplayers use to pop to stay sharp and focused during games. They were as much a part of major league baseball as home runs and spitting until MLB banned them in 2006.

Think about how hard it must be to stay alert during a slow-moving 3 1/2 hour game after taking a cross country red-eye flight the night before. Having some serious uppers in your system surely made the long, grueling season easier to manage.

It infuriates me when high and mighty sports fans disparage amazing hitters and dismiss them as cheaters because they juiced. If getting a little chemical advantage is cheating, then most people who played during the 20th Century – the Greenie Era – were cheaters. And the players today are heroes for getting through 162 games without amphetamines.

Dock Ellis’s story shows a clear distinction between the life of pro athletes in the 1970s versus today. Back then, ballplayers earned a lot less money. But they had a lot more freedom to be themselves off the field without the prying eyes of ESPN scandal mongers and the prying needles of MLB drug testers.

The Steroid Era gets a bad rap. But “No No” is a reminder that drugs were a part of pro baseball long before Jose Canseco put the first syringe in his butt.

And, in the end, it’s clear that chemicals don’t truly make a player great. The 2015 season is proof of that. The 39-year-old Alex Rodriguez had a splendid first half the year – without steroids, without HGH, and without any upper stronger than Red Bull.

A-Rod clearly never needed drugs. And drugs did not destroy baseball.

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