No No: A Dockumentary – Day 7 FFF 2014

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Adam Horovitz and Scott Calonico Answers Questions from the Enzian Faithful

Jeff Radice & Scott Calonico Take Questions from the Enzian Faithful

Dock Ellis admitted he was high on LSD when he pitched a no hitter for Pittsburgh on June 12, 1970.

A contemporary of Muhammad Ali, Dock actually got into a fun little sparing moment with Ali in the baseball locker room when Ali came to visit the team before a game. Dock had a reputation for speaking his mind that often got him labeled as “The Ali of baseball.”

This entertaining “Dockumentary” skillfully looks at the history and legacy of Dock Ellis. Well directed and well paced by filmmaker Jeff Radice, this film explores a famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) baseball character who came of age in baseball at a time in our history when baseball was transitioning from issues of racial unrest to the beginnings of free agency.

Dock came into the sport well after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Yet he was the starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 1, 1971; the day they fielded MLB’s first ever all non-white starting line up. While his teammates (many of whom were interviewed for this documentary) thought this was no big deal, they did spend a lot of time talking about Dock’s antics such as wearing curlers in the dugout, sporting wild hairdos, being high on drugs and alcohol and/or spousal abuse.

DockEllis

Dock Ellis

The film pulls no punches. It explores Dock’s belligerent attitude with management. When teammate Roberto Clemente is killed in a plane crash while aiding his fellow Puerto Ricans, Dock is seen crying in anguish. His ex wives speak candidly about his spousal abuse. His drug and alcohol abuse is highlighted. Yet these scenes are tempered with testimonies from people whom Dock has helped and counseled throughout his life, particularly in later years when he would often do talks for those who suffer with drug or alcohol abuse.

Dock was a multidimensional person who always stole the show with his antics on and off the field. This even and well-balanced “dockumentary” is an entertaining and insightful look at one of baseball’s greats.

After the film, filmmaker Jeff Radice answered questions from the audience. He spoke about how he did a film about LSD, which led him to Dock’s story. He worked with Dock for a couple of years but never made the film, which he now regrets. During this time, Dock got sick and died. When Jeff decided to finish the film one thing that struck him was that everyone he spoke with who knew Dock, to a person, really loved him. They were willing to share what they knew about him. Even the wives he abused still love him.

Jeff spoke about the most touching moment of the film. Dock reads a letter he received from Jackie Robinson. Dock was so touched he was in tears by the time he got to the end of the letter. Jeff refers to that moment in the film as “profound and engaging.” It is.

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