The television series Pitch aired on Fox in 2016, and I watched it perhaps a year later. I have been meaning to write about it here ever since, but I think the delay has been largely due to debating how I would approach this thing. When I watched Ken Burns’s Baseball documentary series, I wrote about it one episode at a time. However, each episode of that series is approximately two hours long and crammed full of information. Pitch, meanwhile, is more of a standard television drama. A separate post for each episode seems excessive. However, a really long, single, detailed post also seems excessive, so this is going to be quite the Reader’s Digest summary.
The series revolves around a character named Ginny Baker, who becomes the first woman to play Major League Baseball. In the first episode of the show, Ginny makes her Major League debut with the San Diego Padres. Though her first start goes terribly, the team opts not to send her back to the minors because they realize that having the first woman Major Leaguer is quite a draw for crowds (it’s always about the money, right?). Fortunately, Ginny manages to recover from her stumble, and thus, the series takes off.
Ginny’s father, Bill, is the one who not only taught her to pitch, but who also drove her to become good enough to go pro. We learn early on, however, that Bill actually died years ago in a car accident, right around when Ginny was first drafted by the Padres organization. His lessons and his death continue to haunt Ginny throughout the series.
Ginny’s relationship with her father is only one of many conflicts throughout the show. Pitch goes out of its way to try to accurately depict what it would really be like if a woman were to break into the majors. Ginny deals with an immense amount of pressure in this role, not just through her performance on the diamond, but also in being put up on a pedestal as a role model for girl athletes. Through all the publicity, Ginny’s primary goal with the team is to be accepted as one of the guys. We also see drama surrounding the All-Star Game, the trade deadline, the relationships between Ginny and her agent and between Ginny and catcher Mike Lawson, relationships between other players and with their families, and conflicts arising due to Ginny’s brother, Will, trying to capitalize on his sister’s fame.
Once I started watching this series, I was instantly hooked. I rarely binge-watch anything, but I blew through every episode of Pitch in about two days. The show does a tremendous job of drawing viewers into the stories surrounding each of the characters, and it throws in enough baseball to give satisfaction to baseball fans. My only complaint about this show is that it did not get renewed for a second season, leaving so many questions hanging unanswered and the story unfinished.
A couple years ago, I posted about Dock Ellis’s no-hitter, thrown while high on LSD on June 12, 1970 against the Padres. Last night I found this video from No Mas depicting the story in cartoon form. Artist James Blagden used the original audio from an interview Ellis recorded with radio producers Donnell Alexander and Neille Ilel in 2008 to create this short, animated film. It’s quite amusing (and full of flashing colors, so be forewarned). Enjoy!
Here’s a fun first pitch — this Cirque du Soleil performer threw out the first pitch at a Padres game in 2011. This would be an interesting way to throw off the hitter’s timing. Or, in my case, I’d be so busy watching the guy’s acrobatics that I’d forget about the ball entirely.
I’ve had a few posts lately talking about switch pitchers, which is, without a doubt, a difficult skill to develop. But what about pitching with one’s feet? That’s exactly what Tom Willis did on Monday, when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at AT&T Park.
Born without arms, Willis has learned to function by relying on his feet. And, as we can see, he’s learned to do quite a bit that way. Not only did his toss make it to the catcher on the fly, it also appears to be a strike.
As it turns out, this wasn’t Tom Willis’s first go at this kind of thing. On May 27, 2008, he had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Padres game. Looks like he’s been putting in some work on his location since then.
Yesterday, we lost one of the game’s greatest hitters, and a huge part of my earliest introduction to baseball. Tony Gwynn was a career San Diego Padre, a 15-time All Star, and was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 alongside Cal Ripken, Jr. He passed away yesterday after a long battle with salivary gland cancer.
The San Diego Padres occupy the next spot in our lineup of “Talkin’ Baseball” songs. On a personal note, while I root for the Royals today, my older brother pulls for the Padres, and so talk of Tony Gwynn, Fred McGriff, and Gary Sheffield permeate memories of my earliest introduction to Major League Baseball. Backyard baseball meant emulating Gwynn’s swing in an effort to knock the ball over the fence. Ah, nostalgia.
To see all “Talkin’ Baseball” videos, click here.
On 22 April 1970, during the pregame ceremony, New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver was presented with the 1969 Cy Young award. In the game that followed, Seaver struck out a record ten consecutive batters as he led the Mets to a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres. He struck out nineteen total hitters over the course of the game, which tied another Major League record. Even better, four of those batters struck out looking.
I guess Seaver didn’t want to leave any doubt that he really did deserve that Cy Young, eh?
At the Major League level, baseball is not an easy sport. Most people never even make it to that level, much less excel at it, even while playing completely sober. So one would think that playing well while under the influence would be near-impossible, right?
On 12 June 1970, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis hurled the first no-hitter of the season in San Diego against the Padres. The Pirates recorded a 2-0 victory, in spite of Ellis’s eight walks and hitting Padres center fielder Ivan Murrell. He also struck out six. When it came time for post-game interviews, Ellis attributed his wild pitching to his efforts to keep the ball away from hitters, which seemed like a completely reasonable explanation.
Fourteen years later, on 8 April 1984, Ellis came clean, admitting to the press that he threw the no-hitter under the influence of LSD. He hadn’t planned it that way, of course. The day before the game, Thursday 11 June 1970, had been an off-day for the Pirates, and Ellis celebrated by dropping a hit of the drug. On Friday at noon, mistakenly believing it was still Thursday, he took another tab. Shortly thereafter, his girlfriend noticed, while flipping through a newspaper, that Ellis was slated to pitch that evening. Ellis rushed to the airport and made it to the stadium just in time.
He described his experience of the game itself:
“I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria.
“I was zeroed in on the (catcher’s) glove, but I didn’t hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters and the bases were loaded two or three times.
“The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn’t hit hard and never reached me.”
How anyone could pitch so well while in that state of mind is a marvel in itself. Perhaps it was because Dock Ellis realized that he had to force himself to focus more than usual. Or, perhaps, it was because all his inhibitions had been removed, and he was literally unable to over think his performance.
Some speculation remains over whether Ellis was being completely honest when he came forward about the no-hitter or if he was merely trying to create a stir. Either way, at this point, the only thing we really have to go off is his testimony about that night. Even his teammates’ perspective on Ellis’s state of mind that night is limited, as superstition dictates that players not talk to a teammate who is in the midst of throwing a no-no.
Over the course of his career, Ellis won 138 games and had the honor of being the National League’s starting pitcher in the 1971 All-Star Game. All this, in spite of a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. Upon retirement from Major League Baseball, Ellis served for many years as a substance abuse counselor.
“Dock Ellis.” Snopes.com: Rumor Has It. Urban Legends Reference Pages, last updated 9 June 2003. Web. Accessed 19 March 2013. http://www.snopes.com/sports/baseball/ellis.asp
“Dock Ellis Says He Pitched 1970 No-Hitter Under The Influence of LSD.” Lysergic World 16-19 April 1993, San Francisco.
Goldstein, Richard. “Dock Ellis, All-Star Pitcher Who Overcame Longtime Addictions, Dies At 63.” New York Times 20 December 2008, New York ed.: A43.
Hall, Donald. Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball. New York: Fireside P, 1976.
Hruby, Patrick. “The Long, Strange Trip of Dock Ellis: Meet the Man Behind Baseball’s Most Psychedelic Myth.” ESPN: Outside the Lines. ESPN Internet Venues, August 2012. Web. Accessed 19 March 2013. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=Dock-Ellis