Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #71, Dock Ellis (Article 15)
Dock Ellis had one truly great season. That was in 1971 when he went 19-9, 3.06. He was an All-Star that year and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting while pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ellis, of course, also achieved notoriety for pitching a no-hitter while supposedly under the effects of LSD in 1970. He batted drug addiction and alcoholism throughout his life.
It can be argued that his next best season was the only full one he spent in the Bronx, 1976. That year, Dock Ellis pitched to a 17-8, 3.19 record. This performance earned him the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award, but he didn’t last in New York. Early in 1977, he, along with a few lesser players, was traded to the Oakland A’s for Mike Torrez.
Torrez would end up being the pitcher on the mound when the Yankees won the 1977 World Series that year. The next year he was pitching in Boston for the Red Sox. In the one game playoff for the American East pennant, Mike Torrez gave up a home run to Bucky Dent (and the rest, as they say, is history).
Dock Ellis’ career lasted until 1979. That year he pitched for three teams: The Texas Rangers, the New York Mets, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a Met, Ellis wasn’t very good as his 3-7, 6.04 record indicates.
There were at least two other pitchers who called themselves Doc (or Dock) who threw for both the Yankees and the Mets.
Dwight “Doc” Gooden earned his nickname not from studying medicine, but from being a strikeout artist in his youngest days as a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher with the New York Mets. He was Dr. K. (Doctor Strikeout). The practice of hanging signs with the letter K following each strikeout originated with Dwight Gooden’s pitching prowess for the Mets in Shea Stadium in 1984. Gooden etched his name in the Yankee record books when he threw a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on May 14, 1996. Gooden was a contributing member of the Yankees 1996 World Series Championship team. He pitched three seasons for the Yankees 1996-97 and 2000. His career, filled with promise, including earning the 1984 Rookie of the Year and the 1985 National League Cy Young Award, was derailed by substance abuse issues. In his sixteen year career, Dwight Gooden won 194 games against 112 losses.
In the 1970’s, there was a contemporary of Dock Ellis’ who also saw time pitching for the Yankees and a few other clubs. This was George “Doc” Medich.
Doc Medich was drafted by the Yankees in 1970 and rose through the Minor Leagues making his first Major League appearance in 1972 to begin an eleven year Major League career. As a Yankee, Doc Medich won 49 games against 40 losses in four seasons from 1972 through 1975. His best year was 1974 when we won 19 games,
Medich was truly an up and coming star pitcher, but his greatest contribution to the Yankees was being the centerpiece of the trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates that landed the Yankees star second baseman Willie Randolph and two other players including our friend here – Dock Ellis.
After leaving the Yankees, Medich never attained the greatest predicted for him. He bounced around a lot, playing one season or less for five different clubs. Medich’s longest tenure was with the Texas Rangers where he pitched from 1978 to 1982. Interestingly, Medich began medical school at the University of Pittsburgh the day after his Major league debut in 1972. He graduated in January 1977 while still a Major League player. There are three documented instances where Doc Medich used his medical skills in conjunction with his playing. He twice went into the stands to administer CPR to fans, saving a fan’s life in 1978. Medich also tended to Yankee legend Whitey Ford after Ford collapsed following pitching a batting practice session in May 1975.
Doc Medich and Dock Ellis spent much of their careers playing for the same franchises, but not always at the same time. In their careers, they both pitched for the Yankees, Pirates, A’s, Rangers, and Mets. They were teammates on the Oakland A’s in 1977 and with the Texas Rangers in 1978 and 1979. (Of note, Doc Medich also pitched for the Brewers, albeit, very briefly, to close out his career in 1982.)
But, for Mr. Ellis, where did the name Dock come from?
For Ellis, Dock wasn’t a nickname. His given name from birth was Dock Phillip Ellis.