Jeremy’s Review: ‘No No: A Dockumentary’ Is an Incredible Portrait of a Baseball Original

no no posterWe now live in a time where outspoken athletes are a dime a dozen, standing up for causes or against prejudices that exist inside of the sports where they ply their trade and outside in the world where their influence can change opinions. Michael Sam, formerly of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, is smack in the middle of knocking down ridiculously built walls of homophobia as I write this review. In the late 60s and early 70s, it was rare to have an athlete, especially one of African-American descent, speak out about race in sports and in the world at large. Muhammad Ali is one notable example, but another that many may not have heard of is Dock Ellis, a major league baseball player, who, from 1968 as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, until his retirement from baseball in 1979 from those same Pirates, stood up and spoke his mind about ANYTHING.

no no dock 1No No: A Dockumentary is a film ostensibly about Dock Ellis‘ feat of throwing a no-hitter while on LSD and sold as such, but it’s really the story of a maverick athlete who was never afraid to be himself even when it was to his own detriment, both professionally and physically. With the Pirates in their heyday, playing alongside Hall of Famers like Roberto Clemente and WilliStargell, Ellis won a world series in 1971 and was at the top of the baseball world. When Clemente died in a plane crash in 1973, though, a rock for Ellis was toppled and the drug and alcohol fueled underworld he lived in nearly all of the time unbeknownst to many, bubbled to the surface.

no no dock 3A showman himself like Ali, Ellis wasn’t above stunts like wearing his hair in curlers while warming up for a game or trying to bean every hitter in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. Dock was a tortured soul – he claimed that he never played a single game while not high on something. His drinking consumed his time away from the field. He was outspoken in the area of players’ rights including free agency, which was far from a popular idea. He was extremely outspoken about treatment of African American players. And through all of this, he was a loving father and devoted husband…for the most part. His demons eventually caught up to him, but when they did, it changed his life for the better.

no no dock 2Having a hippie for a father who once tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates, I had heard the story of Ellis and his no-hitter thrown while on LSD, but what I didn’t know was the story behind the man, which is completely riveting. His courage and bravado were overwhelming to a faultand that’s why Dock was such a fascinating person. Listening to him tell his story uncensored is really moving and at times, it just hits you in the gut when you realize how important of a figure Dock was. When he reads the note that Jackie Robinson wrote to him, thanking him for speaking out about the treatment of African American ballplayers when few would is incredibly powerful and I am thankful Jeff Radice chose not to show footage of Dock reading the letter (if there was any). The words, spoken by Dock, were enough and brought me to tears as well.

I can honestly say I loved this movie. While many might consider this a sports movie, I can’t say that I agree. This is a portrait of an individual who was so perfectly suited for his time that it’s hard to believe it happened. Thank the cinematic heavens that it did.

No No: A Dockumentary hit VOD on September 2 and will hit theaters this Friday, September 5. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

About Jeremy Harmon

He is Jeremy Harmon aka Spirit of the Thing aka Harmonov. Once a Van Damme/action movie devotee, he now prefers to delve into small budget, independent and foreign films. Jeremy maintains that Slap Shot is the best movie ever. Follow him on Twitter @harmonov or read his new blog @

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