I'm Jeffrey Radice, director and producer of No No: A Dockumentary, the 2014 film recounting the legend of major league pitcher Dock Ellis, who in 1970 threw a now-infamous no-hitter while under the influence of LSD. Ask me anything!
Hi Reddit, I'm Jeffrey Radice, director and producer of No No: A Dockumentary, an official selection at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival that tells the legend of major league pitcher Dock Ellis, who in 1970 threw a now-infamous no-hitter while under the influence of LSD. Ask me anything!
And to celebrate 8 years of the film, together with my friends at Reigning Champ, we are hosting an exclusive online screening of No No: A Dockumentary for 72 hours only — from May 6-8, 2022.
Create an account through reigningchamp.com to watch the film for free: reigningchamp.com/no-no-dockumentary
More about the film: On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 137 years of organized professional baseball, it’s the only no- hitter tossed while the pitcher was on LSD. Dock was often embroiled in controversy on and off the field. While professional baseball hadn’t fully embraced racial equality, he was an outspoken leader who lived the expression ‘Black is Beautiful!’ Through intimate stories and a trove of archival footage, No No: A Dockumentary brings Dock’s vibrant life to light, burnishing the legend and revealing the man behind it.
Here's my proof! https://imgur.com/a/5xFLr0H
Hi thanks for the question. It was Donald Hall's biography of Dock that convinced me there was a feature length film, both in that material covered in the bio and the easily apparent friendship between the old white New England poet who talked about playing softball with Robert Frost and the hip, slick Black pitcher from Los Angeles. I was sold after I read his bio.
Hi Jeffrey, Loved the music in the film. How did you go about getting Ad Rock to score the film?
A lot of people believed in the story and my ability to tell it as a doc for us to get to the point that Ad Rock's score appeared in the film. First, I found out Glen E. Friedman met Dock as a kid, and reached out to him about being interviewed. He never was, but he became a mentor to me and close advisor. A baseball Dock signed for GEF does make a cameo. So Glen mentioned it to Adam. If my memory serves, Adam's sister Rachael had previously been involved with a film or script about Dock.
So he knew about Dock's story and knew I was making a "Dockumentary" but the final piece was after we reached out to Richard Linklater for help. He put us in touch with Randy Poster, who became our music supervisor. He was way out of our league, but believed in the project. He made the pitch to Adam, who agreed to score the film. One of these days I'll share the titles of the songs we used. I've been asked for them many times.
Do you think the minor league and little league systems discourage unusual playstyles like submarine pitching, and if so, do you think that’s having a negative affect on the game?
These things are handled on a league by league basis, and I can't say much about little league or minor league systems. In baseball as in life, anyone who stands out or is different will be picked on and discouraged. But if you can win with an unusual playing style, you can find a place in baseball. Simple as that. After all the knuckleball is as unusual a pitch as there is and anyone who can command it is revered. There have always been unorthodox players. The Baseball Reliquary captures some of that, in which Dock was among the inaugural inductees.
Hey, thanks for doing this. I haven't watched the dockumentary yet but I'm excited to when I get back home.
Is there any footage from this actual game in it? I've always wanted to see footage from the game, or even the whole game; do you think that footage will ever be released if it isn't? Is there a place to see the full game?
There is a very minimal amount of footage of the actual no no game in No No. Very little footage is known to exist. You'll see ... we used each clip twice ... maybe three times. A lot of artistic liberties were taken. What you get is all I have ever seen. Since my movie has come out, I have not been informed of more footage existing.
1970 was a different era in sports broadcast. Baseball telecasts in 1970, certainly for a bad expansion San Diego team, were rare. You'd get a game of the week maybe 1-2 more in certain markets. Radio had every game broadcast and I had hoped there were recordings of the radio play-by-play. Even the pieces of radio that I use are purported to have been recreations done at the end of the season for a "best of" type promotion.
The minimal amount of Dock's no no game that we have was shot in black & white 16mm film, by Les Banos, the Pirates team photographer. Les said once they realized Dock had a no-hitter going he went in to the press box with a camera and filmed what he could. The angles aren't great, but you get all of what is known to exist. Some conspiratorial types believe that MLB is suppressing footage of the game, but I don't.
How much LSD did you take for the movie?
LOL, no acid was consumed in the making of the movie. I did spend a screening at the Boulder Film Festival in the balcony, where ill-timed laughter convinced me that someone was tripping while watching the film in my presence.
What's your favorite song about this incident? (I've heard Chuck Brodsky's and also Todd Snider's, but there are more.)
Thanks for the question. Both Chuck Brodsky and Todd Snider were supportive while we were making the film and I like both of their songs, but I have to say my favorite is definitely Barbara Manning and the S.F. Seal's "Dock Ellis" from 1993 on Matador Records.
It covers more than just the LSD incident in Dock's life. She really did her research as a songwriter back in the days when there was no wikipedia entry. The person who first clued me in on the folklore of Dock pre-millennium found out about it through Barbara Manning's music. Plus it just rocks. You can find the official video for the song on YouTube. Woefully underappreciated. Not even 1,000 views per year!
Thanks. I have a terrible habit of forgetting Barbara Manning.
As does the world. After I made that comment last night I went down a Barbara Manning rabbit hole and listened to a bunch of her music. A very under-appreciated 90's indy musician. Apparently she's a high school chemistry teacher now.
Hi Jeffrey - Thanks for doing this AMA. Love your film. Dock is a legend! You seem to have a passion for baseball. What is it about the sport that draws you in?
Honestly it's the connection baseball has to my youth. Don Hall captures the essence of it in the title, "Fathers Playing Catch with Sons" but perhaps the idea of it, not a precise memory of playing catch with my old man but I certainly did that. There is also something about the pace and drama of the game that attracts me. Still playing after all these years. A shout out to the best team in Austin Sandlot, my East Austin Jardineros.
Oh wow!! The first AMA I’ve ever wanted to ask a question on!! I haven’t seen the film yet but will definitely be checking it out now that I’ve seen this. And sorry if my question is answered there! My understanding of this was that he lost track of what day it was… how did/does that happen? Just seems absolutely wild to me, but incredible story nevertheless! Ha
My favorite quote from the film, and one I use often, Dock asks, "What happened to yesterday?" If you've ever been at a place in your life where that makes sense then there is your answer. According to witnesses, he was on a multi-day drug bender, and drugs especially hallucinogens can distort one's sense of time, such that a day easily could be lost. He said that he took LSD on his way to LA, partied, slept, woke up, took more, and then at some point in time got a call and had to hop on a plane back to San Diego.
Reigning Champ is making the film available free to watch over the next few days, so if you watch it and more come to mind I'll be checking in periodically over the weekend to answer any questions that come in.
I loved your film!
Was there any other cool stories he had on that HBO tape? Or anything else that you thought was cool and ended on the cutting room floor?
Thank you so much. I was just thinking about that HBO interview recently, because I just watched a documentary by Alain Gomis about Thelonious Monk enduring this terrible awkward interview in Paris in 1969. My recollect of the HBO interview is that most of it was terrible and awkward in the way that TV style interviews can be when the producer is fishing for soundbites.
There's also another filmmaker who apparently filmed a long sit down interview with Dock, only pieces of which I've seen. Dock told us about him, but our every effort to reach out was summarily ignored. That's how it goes. OTOH, sportswriter Peter Golenbock left me alone in his house to duplicate audiotapes of his interviews with Dock for The Forever Boys book, from which we used quite a few minutes. Same with photographer Bob Adelman, who had hundreds of photos of the Pirates, and invited me into his home to thumb through them.
Follow up to above - who or what in sport would you like to make a film about next?
Not so interested in making another sports film. I haven't pursued any. Just finished producing a 12 minute short doc about Eartha Kitt called Catwoman vs The White House that you can find on The New Yorker Documentary website and their YouTube channel.
My next feature, I'm co-directing a film about an East German spymaster who defected from the Stasi and came to the USA in the 1980s and earned an MBA to become an investment banker for Goldman Sachs. Told from the perspective of the children he left behind in Germany. They were reunited after the Berlin Wall fell and he's another interesting, almost fractal, personality like Dock.
In the 1980s there was a scandal in MLB of pitchers hurling on cocaine. How does pitching on LSD differ from cocaine?
I've never pitched on LSD nor on cocaine, so I'm not qualified to answer that. Dock served as an advisor to some players and teams during the Pittsburgh drug trials. Recall, the cocaine scandal was centered in Pittsburgh. Also, Enos Cabell, who was suspended for a season because of it, appeared in No No and was very honest with us about the problems both he and baseball had with drugs and should be commended for his candor.
I firmly agree with what Scipio Spinks said in the film about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig playing day games and partying all night and riding on trains, "I believe everyone has had help along the way." I agree. I further believe that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should be in the hall of fame. Part of the story I was trying to tell about baseball is that "a little help" has always been a part of the game ... I'm told later on it was Adderall and prescription medications for ADHD.
Man I LOVE your movie so much
How did Dock react when he first saw the movie? I bet he loved it, the animation is super awesome.
EDIT: How often do you do LSD and how has it improved your life?
Dock died in 2008
ah shit, I didnt realize he made the film with old footage.
Unfortunately never got to talk to Dock in front of a camera. We found over an hour of interview footage that HBO had in their vaults, recorded for an episode of a Bob Costas hosted show. That's where the interview with Dock comes from.
What do you say to those who claim he made u the story about being high?
On another note, I bought an autographed ball at a thrift shop because I thought I recognized Ferguson Jenkins autograph (I was right), and I just noticed last week one of the other signatures is Dock's.
Congratulations, a ball signed by Fergie Jenkins and Dock Ellis is a keepsake. My movie is my response to those who claim he made up the story about being high. I put all the evidence I had into the film. I want audiences to make their own conclusions. If you ask me if I think he did it, the answer is yes. Those who were closest to him all believed him.
He originally revealed the story publicly to David Lander, Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley. Apparently Lander was a baseball scout and spent a lot of time around ballparks. I don't know why Dock opened up to him, but Dock was in recovery and at a point in his life where he needed to talk about the wrongs he had done and get right with himself. As Ron Howard told us, he didn't talk about the no hitter with glee, he talked about it with regret.
I had to teach spell check an alternate spelling, and it caused no end of grief promoting the film. That and the colon in the title. The documentary film establishment didn't much appreciate our playfulness with language, but a former U.S. Poet Laureate (Donald Hall) shared with me, "It is the best documentary, with or without a k, that I have ever seen."
Howdy Jeff, glad to have you here. What's your favorite Dock story that didn't wind up in the final cut of the film?
Thank you, and thanks for the question. In his biography, there is a story about Dock going to Vietnam on a USO tour with some other players and an umpire. Apparently Dock came back from the trip very changed. He went out and met the troops and returned talking about drugs in the trenches. The only material I could find to corroborate the story was what is in his bio. His lifelong friend Ray Jones served in Vietnam and appears in my film. He remembered Dock coming over and meeting up with him, but nobody else that we interviewed could recall Dock talking about Vietnam or having gone. I had a list and tried to track down everyone who had reportedly been on the USO tour with him. It was just a dead end.
That's the thing about making documentary films. If you can find no "screen worthy" evidence to a scene, you can't make it. At least with the Muhammad Ali story we had a chorus of people telling us about the incident, so we could recreate the visual elements with animation. About his trip to Vietnam, there was just a passage in a book to go with and nothing else to use. Not only didn't make the final cut, just never got off the ground.
This was a fantastic documentary, so thank you very much for making it. It’s been years since I’ve seen it but as a 90s acid head, I had to watch it when I first heard about it/saw it advertised on Netflix or whatever it was.
Anyway, I’m curious about patronage. Would you consider making a film for a rich person who handed you $5M and said “Go for it” without any deals with a distributor or platform in place? Like, just a random person who had money?
Thank you for the kind words. Wait, are you offering me $5M to make a film? Get in touch. LOL
The stories I prefer to tell, you have to believe in yourself and the story first. Money will come. Many independent films get made the way you describe. No No was started and went a long way without any deals or distributors or platforms in place. All the films I have ever made have been on a wing and a prayer. If someone legitimately approached me with money to make a movie about a story that I could get behind and gave me directorship, I would leap at the opportunity. It has not yet happened, and I am not at all interested in stories that don't compel me or in cranking out some formulaic dreck.
Hi Jeffrey, not a film related question (though congratulations on that) but a name related question, the reason for which my username will likely make clear.
How do you prefer to pronounce your last name?
Hello distant cousin. I prefer the original Italian, which would sound phonetically like rah-dee-che, but grew up with ray-diss, and my grandmother went with rah-deese.
Do you have any tips for someone who is in the process of making a documentary?
Sure, I've got tips. When starting out, and you are telling friends & family about your idea, making the elevator pitch, if the response you receive is not an immediate, "I'd watch that film," then question whether you have a story that people want to see. Don't be afraid to give up on an idea that you've developed and can't see a path forward. I almost gave up on No No when Dock died, but I found a path forward.
I had the privilege of programming feature docs for the Slamdance Film Festival a few years ago and programming for a festival is one of the most educational experiences one can have as a documentary filmmaker. My major insight was that almost every documentary can be shorter. I saw a lot of good short docs dressed up as features. Trim the fat and then trim it some more. As they say in the film world, kill your babies.
Your documentary will be yours for life, so make a movie that you will enjoy watching again and again. I've probably screened No No with audiences over 30 times, and I still enjoy the experience. Every audience brings their own energy to a show. I poured my heart & soul into making a movie that viewers would want to watch repeatedly, because one of my definitions of a good film is one that I immediately want to watch again after it ends.
Don't cut corners and all the late nights and attention to detail that you put in may not show up individually, but they do make a difference in aggregate. I spent a lot of time in Photoshop with the healing tool while making No No, because I set the bar for excellence so high and only could push myself to do the little things. But you'll find that as a director the rest of the team will key off your standards. If you want to half-ass it, they will too. If you are putting in 20 hour days, they will put in 10 hours. Lead by example.
After some brief research, it looks like there is a band out of St Louis, Missouri called the Dock Ellis Band. Are they in your dockumentary?
Hello, I've heard of the Dock Ellis Band, but no they are not in the doc. It was either them or Hawkwind's Silver Machine. I joke, but major credit to our editor Sam Douglas for the Silver Machine scene that emerged one day in post-production, fully formed from his mind's eye. Sam was integral to the film that you see today.
A little bit of trivia: We had been using Motörhead's Bomber up until very late in post, during scenes of Dock's time playing with the Yankees. The licensing fees were just too far out of our budget for that one song, so we replaced it (if I recall correctly with a Death song). Lemmy Kilmister still appears on the soundtrack, via Hawkwind.
Would you say LSD is a performance enhancing drug? Seems like many great things have come out of people producing or performing under the influence of it.
Apparently LSD can can enhance performance, for some people, like Dock. But there is contra-evidence in the form of Syd Barrett. Can't say that LSD enhanced his performance over the long term. Shine on you crazy diamond. There is a Jim Morrison quote, "Drugs are a bet with your mind." I firmly believe that to be true.
This documentary is one of my favorites.
Have you done a documentary before this? Do you have any projects in the works now?
Thank you. I really appreciate you sharing that. One of my favorites too :)
I produced many short documentaries and a few short narratives before starting on this one. You can find some titles in IMDB. The year I started on No No, I had produced a short doc that showed at Sundance and a short narrative at Slamdance. Fast forward a short decade, and you have my directorial debut. Only feature film I have ever worked on. I do have another in the works.
I just completed producing a short documentary about Eartha Kitt with a longtime collaborator Scott Calonico. It's entitled Catwoman vs The White House and you can watch it online via The New Yorker. Appeared with it in Toronto at Hot Docs earlier this week. https://hotdocs.ca/whats-on/hot-docs-festival/films/2022/catwoman-vs-the-white-house
Scott Calonico and I are co-directing a feature documentary about the East German James Bond. I mentioned it in a previous comment. I will just add that again the focus will be on a person, an era and an institution. Instead of Dock Ellis, 1960s-1970s, and baseball; the story centers around Werner Stiller, the Cold War, and spycraft.
Loved your film. Is there any footage of the game that exists? I'm guessing there might be, but MLB keeps it under wraps. I know some radio broadcast exists...
What is this doc gonna tell me that the vice video didn’t?
Which Vice video?
I hear dinosaurs were wrangled during the making of this film. Can you explain?
Ha! You found the easter egg in the end credits. One of the methods to pay for the film came through crowd funding on Kickstarter. Our highest level perk was an associate producer credit. We had some takers, a few lifelong friends, and one who became so afterwards. Nothing like a crowd funding campaign to find out who your true friends are. LOL
Credits on a film are a currency of exchange. When it's a friend, and it's all in good fun, concessions might get made in the heat of the moment ... when you're stressfully sizing up a kickstarter campaign stuck in the blade of a hockey stick donation curve. We pulled out the goal. I followed through on the promise of the credits.
I have immense gratitude for every donation and every backer we had on Kickstarter. Many people I never met had enough faith in my ability to pull off the movie mid-production that they put their cash on the barrel head. It fueled the remaining production from that point forward, where we got some of our best material. Crowd funding is no walk in the park and I will tell aspiring filmmakers that it should be a last resort fund raising option. You do have more active control over the process than a grant application, which I have personally found on a time value of money basis to be the absolute worst approach to funding documentaries.
Have you ever dropped acid yourself? If so you'd know he was well sober by the time he played.
My response about dropping acid is already answered. The chicken shit who asked the question removed it, but the answer remains. Dock said he took greenies when he got to the stadium, so he definitely wasn't sober. Whether he was tripping balls, you'll have to take that up with Dock. He was known to embellish the truth.
Automod removed it for some reason.
As the CIA, who brought acid into public consciousness with their MK-ULTRA experiments of the 1950s & 1960s, would respond ... I can neither confirm nor deny any ingestion of Lysergic acid diethylamide.
Comment which this was in response to was deleted by user not automod.
As the CIA, who brought acid into public consciousness with their MK-ULTRA experiments of the 1950s & 1960s, would respond ... I can neither confirm nor deny any ingestion of Lysergic acid diethylamide.
Is there any proof he was on LSD? Is there even any solid evidence?
Also what does this mean? Was he banging a black chick? What weird sentence.
While professional baseball hadn’t fully embraced racial equality, he was an outspoken leader who lived the expression ‘Black is Beautiful!’
I take it from the questions that you have not watched the film. Watch it and get back to me.
Hi Jeffrey, what was it about Dock that made you think there was a feature length film in the material? And were you aware of his progressive politics and actions before, or was that a discovery from the process?
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