No No: A Dockumentary (2014)
NR / 100 min
Documentary / Sports
Starring: Dock Ellis
Director: Jeff Radice
Baseball is a sport that has had a lot of characters throughout its long storied history. Among the long list of famous baseball players, Dock Ellis is one of those guys that probably flies under the radar. How he flies under the radar, I do not know. He is probably one of the most intriguing players, if not one of the craziest pitchers to play the game. No No: A Dockumentary tells his story.
Director Jeff Radice does not waste his time in the beginning of the documentary, starting with Dock’s claim to fame; his no-hitter with the Pittsburgh Pirates under the influence of LSD. A feat like this is almost impossible, but somehow, some way, Dock Ellis found a way to pull history off against the San Diego Padres.
The title is misleading though, as the documentary starts to branch off into other directions. We indeed get the story of Dock’s no hitter, but we get a much bigger exploration into the crazy life that Dock Ellis led. He was an alcoholic, a drug addict, and was never afraid to ramble off what was on his mind. He’s a player that would not last a second in today’s world, but managed to create a name for himself back when he first played for the Pirates. He was a talented pitcher, managing to pitch under the influence of a number of different drugs. The drugs “took the edge off” and managed to loosen up his appearance on the mound. He was a pitcher that had an effect on the psyche of hitters. They never knew what kind of state the man was in.
With that many drugs going through his system on a daily basis, it was no surprise that his personal life started to take a downhill direction. He had different girlfriends, but these relationships never seemed to all end abruptly thanks to Dock’s drug problem. He also led a party life that often got him into trouble. These effects changed him however, and the last part of the documentary documents Dock’s return to sobriety, and his defeat of his drug and alcohol addiction. It was a change for the better, and it led him to teach and counsel others going through the same types of struggles that he went through.
The story is told by friends, family, former players and Dock himself, who was present for some interviews. They all had interesting things to say about Dock, painting him as a good man, with a lot of vices. Radice does a good job of framing the story with music from the era as well, giving the documentary a cool psychedelic feel straight out of the 70’s. It was a good fit. As far as actual game footage go, it was pretty scarce. Most of the footage came from his famed no hitter, but the majority of the film was still photos and interviews from others. It would have been nice to see some other footage, perhaps from his game against the Cincinnati Reds, where he was on a mission to hit everyone in their lineup until he got taken out.
Another thing that came to question was the documentary’s sudden end. The documentary does not disappoint and managed to keep the story going through its 100 minute runtime, but it came to a quick end. It almost seemed like there was a little more story to be told. I do not know if Radice had to make some cuts for time concerns or what, but it just did not seem right.
No No: A Dockumentary manages to tell a compelling story about one of the craziest and lesser known players of the game. He was outspoken, pitched a no-hitter, started an all-star game, and played for a number of teams during his wild career. He has not received a hall of fame nod, but perhaps that is because the kind of life he led does not necessarily match up with the kind of example you want to set for young players of the game. Either way, the now deceased Dock Ellis deserves a nice comfy spot in baseball history as one the most storied players of the game, and his documentary demands your attention.