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REVIEW: “No No: A Dockumentary”

The tale is well known. In 1970, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no hitter against the San Diego Padres while under the influence of LSD. It’s the stuff of legend for baseball aficionados and psychedelic adventurers alike, but both groups want to know the answer to same question: How in the hell could someone pitch a no-no while tripping on acid?DockEllis1970T

Ellis’ career and life were more than just one great performance under the most bizarre of circumstances, however, and “No No: A Dockumentary” explores the man he was on and off the field. The documentary premiered Saturday at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas as part of the annual event’s new “South By Sports” effort.

The no hitter is the central event around which “No No” revolves, but it is far from the only focus of the film. I count myself among probably many who didn’t know much more about Ellis than the acid event, but he was a lot more than that and “No No” does a great job of telling the whole story of the man.

Ellis was a fairly polarizing figure in his day, and his day was a fairly turbulent time in history. In “No No” I learned about his baseball career, his civil rights activism, his flamboyant personality, and his substance and physical abuse problems. I also learned about how Ellis was able to right the ship and use his experiences to mentor troubled and at-risk youth long after his Major League Baseball days were over. He was far from a perfect man, but Ellis managed to overcome his faults and accomplish a lot of good before his death in 2008 from a liver ailment. The film covers his ups and downs and features interviews from teammates, family members, and close friends. Footage of Ellis himself is from before filming for this movie began, but its inclusion punctuates the story perfectly.

“No No: A Dockumentary” is an incredible film that would be really hard to improve upon. It is laughs, it is tears, it is a redemption story, it is a baseball story. And if you enjoy any of the aforementioned even a little bit, it is a can’t miss. “No No: A Dockumentary” is one of the best baseball documentaries I’ve ever seen, and the long, sustained applause from the audience at its conclusion tells me I’m not alone in that assessment. Seriously, when it comes out, see it.


Son of a Mitch

Now that’s what I call a hiatus.

Recently I made the trek back to the St. Louis area for a visit. It was a reconnect and recharge I enjoyed. Many of my family and friends had the expected questions: How do you like Texas, do you miss home, etc. etc. But one question I got more than I expected.

“Are you still writing at all?”

The long answer is complicated, so here’s the Cliff Notes version: Yes, I am, but not stuff I want to share at this time. The extension of the writing question was always some version of whether or not I was able to still watch or listen to Cardinals games. And the answer there is also yes, thanks to MLB.TV. I don’t see nearly as many games as I used to, obviously, but I get to see or hear at least some of most games. Plus there’s always a steady stream of baseball updates on my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I did get to a game at Busch last week, and realistically that might be the only Cards game I see. If that holds, this will be the first year I only see one game at Busch in I don’t know how long—maybe a decade or more. But I do have the Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers Triple A affiliate) playing right down the road and could always make the trek up to Arlington or over to Houston for some Major League action. Regardless, I’m still able to see a good amount of baseball; I just haven’t been writing about it—until today.

Mitchell effing Boggs

The game only ended about five and a half hours ago thanks to that bizarre rain delay, but 11 or so hours ago Mike Matheny called out to the bullpen to get a reliever up to close out a 2-1 game. Edward Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal were apparently unavailable after pitching a bunch of games in a row, so he picked Boggs—the enigmatic, suddenly always struggling reliever who was lights-out as the 8th inning guy last year but has blown more saves than he has secured in 2013. No one can figure out what has become of this guy. He’s been down all year. The Cardinals sent him to Memphis where he pitched better but still didn’t excel. And he comes in to a game where Michael Wacha makes his Major League debut with a great outing and allows the Kansas City Royals to tie the game. The Royals were mired in an historically bad slump before the 9th inning of last night’s game. They had lost eight in a row and 12 of their last 13 and hadn’t hit a home run in like 9451 innings. So what’s a bad team’s cure for that kind of suck?

Mitchell effing Boggs.

And Matheny is at least partially culpable here, too. There are plenty of places to insert a troubled reliever so he can get straightened out. The 9th inning of a 2-1 game isn’t one of them. But it’s decision time regarding Boggs. This isn’t about one loss, or failing to sweep a series the Cardinals should have swept, or ruining Wacha’s debut. This is about wins and losses, and Boggs has been responsible for too many of the latter. I’m not saying the Cards need to release him, because the talent is there—we’ve seen it for several years. Maybe it is going from the 8th inning stopper to the 9th inning closer that messed him up just a little before it turned into a death spiral. But something is amiss with Boggs, and whether it’s his head or his health or his mechanics, he demonstrated again last night why he does not deserve to be anywhere near the mound in any inning of a close game.



The St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series Film

If you’re like me, you find yourself constantly revisiting the Cardinals’ website for video highlights from this past season, or maybe you check the channel guide every day hoping MLB Network will air something from those magical days in October.

Well, soon you’ll have to go no further than your own DVD collection to get your 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals fix. And Tuesday, you can get a sneak peak in downtown St. Louis.

Major League Baseball Productions’ presentation of the 2011 World Series Film is showing at the Peabody Opera House tonight. Details and instructions for ordering tickets or your very own copy of the DVD can be found here.

Additionally, I have secured a copy of the DVD to review on this site. As soon as it arrives–literally within minutes–I will crack that baby open and post a review of what I find inside. And even if you don’t necessarily want to know my particular thoughts about the film, you’ll still want to check back because I will also have a few copies to give away FREE!

More to come!


Ramblin’ Friday

I’m sick. Not in the way most of you already know; I mean I’ve got some form of bad cold/flu/plague that has kept me down since Tuesday morning. The good thing about working from home is not having to worry about going into the office when I don’t feel good. The bad thing about working from home is I still have to work even when I don’t feel good. I’ve already been up for three and a half hours because my nose was so stuffy I spent most of the night breathing through my mouth while I slept…which, along with all the medicine I’ve been taking all week, dried my mouth out terribly. So I woke up at 4:15 with a scratchy throat and haven’t been back to sleep since.

But enough complaining. This blog represents me using my time more constructively.

–The Cardinals and Albert Pujols opened “positive” dialogue this week in an attempt to extend his contract before Spring Training 2011. I still expect this deal to get done. I think the guaranteed years will end with six, maybe seven…but I also think at least one or two option years will be tacked on. And I hope the Cards are able to structure the money so the contract is front-loaded…I can much more easily accept Pujols making $28-30 million now rather than at the end of this next deal when he’s approaching 40 years old.

–Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week. Though he’s never been implicated by failed test, accusation, or any other means, Alomar played the bulk of his MLB career during the “steroid era” and many of his teammates have been linked to PEDs over the years. Unfortunately, it automatically made me wonder…and that led to a realization: this marks the beginning of what will likely be a number of candidates who, no matter what they say or do, will be hounded by the cloud of suspicion when they are elected to the Hall. The scab will continue to be ripped off for the next 5-10 years at least, and that’s sad.

–I try to leave politics out of my writing as much as I can, but if I see new Speaker of the House John Boehner cry one more time I’m going to vomit.

–When I look outside, I see snow flurries. I love snow. Then I realize I leave for Cancun in three weeks and two days. I love the beach more.

–Pitchers and Catchers report in less than six weeks.

–You may or may not know this already, but I’m going to “break” the news here anyway: I have a new writing gig! Last month I joined the fine staff at I-70 Baseball as one of their Cardinals writers. The site features some great Kansas City Royals articles as well. I look forward to contributing there and hope I can live up to their lofty established standards. My column will post every Saturday morning. I will also continue to write for InsideSTL Mondays and here, of course, whenever I feel like it.

–In the past couple weeks I’ve attended both a St. Louis Rams game and a St. Louis Blues game. I like football, and I love hockey. But even though both put on a great show in their own right, the overall experience still doesn’t compare to going to a baseball game. There’s just something about walking up to Busch Stadium on a warm St. Louis evening…the sights, sounds, and smells of the ballpark…ahh, just a couple more months.

–Speaking of hockey, I’m not sure what it takes to get on the list of potential host sites for the NHL’s Winter Classic, but I really hope St. Louis is on the list and moving up quickly. I was always concerned that the outdoor New Year’s Day game would never be held at Busch because we have the tendancy for odd warm days in December and January. This year we had mid-60s and tornadoes on New Year’s Eve! But Jan 1 was a cold, clear day in St. Louis. Pittsburgh, this year’s host, got some rain and warm temps too. The game was pushed back to later in the evening but still got played, even with a little drizzle falling. This tells me “ideal conditions” aren’t necessary, even though the odds of good New Year’s Day weather here are far greater than the odds of another early appearance by April. The Blues and Cardinals need to get together to make sure the NHL knows St. Louis is ready to host a Winter Classic at Busch Stadium in the near future.

That’s all I have for now. This has been very therapeutic. But my nose is still stuffy. 

The 2009 Schedule…WTF???

Seriously, how is the Major League Baseball schedule made? Is it some B.S. computer system like in college football bowl games? Do they have people close their eyes and throw darts at a board full of teams and dates? Who is running the show here?

Let me start off by saying I’m OK with the unbalanced schedule and Interleague Play. I’m not a huge supporter of both, but I’m OK with them. I agree that teams should face their division rivals more than any other team. I also like seeing AL teams come into St. Louis to play at Busch Staduim, and would love to see the Cardinals play in, say, Fenway Park.

Furthermore, I also understand the desire of MLB to build up new rivalries with Interleague Play. Yankees vs. Mets; Astros vs. Rangers; Dodgers vs. Angels; Cubs vs. White Sox. It makes pretty good sense from a PR standpoint.

But when the “natural rivals” experiment just isn’t taking, you gotta move on. MLB just isn’t getting this when it comes to the Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. This so-called rivalry does not matter one bit to most of the Cardinals fans I talk to. Yes, we all remember what happened in the 1985 World Series. Don Denkinger knows he blew the call and we know the Cards were robbed. We’re over it…pretty much. 


So, other than that event a quarter century ago and the obvious proximity of St. Louis and KC, what is the draw here? The Royals haven’t been a factor in two decades, which encompasses the entire lifespan of Interleague Play. There are no heated exchanges, on the field or in the stands, during these series. Cardinals fans love baseball. Royals fans love baseball. But no one really cares about this matchup.

This issue came up today when I was checking the Cardinals’ 2009 schedule to see if I’d be able to make any games they played at Wrigley Field this season. I quickly realized that the Cards only make two trips to Wrigley this season. How can this be? I had to solicit the insight of Scott The Cub Fan to make sense of it all.

“Don’t they play 18 games against each other?” he asked. “How can only six or seven be at Wrigley?”

“Nope,” I replied. “only 16 this season” The official breakdown is nine in St. Louis (three 3-game series) and seven in Chicago (one 3-game series, one 4-game series).

“That’s a huge bummer,” Scott The Cub Fan said. “The schedule is really dumb again this year…even though the Central Divisions will play against each other in Interleague, the Cubs do not face KC at all but face the White Sox six times.”

I remembered seeing something similar in St. Louis’ schedule, so I looked it up. “Same thing happens to the Cardinals” I replied. “We play every team in the AL Central BUT the White Sox, and we get our usual six against the Royals.” We were both a little miffed now. Isn’t the point of Interleague Play to get teams into new markets and help ignite fan interest?

What’s even crazier is that The White Sox will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in LA this season. How exactly does that make sense? The two Central Divisions…the geographically closest teams…are playing one another in Interleague Play. So the Cardinals have to play two series against KC and zero against the White Sox; the Cubs play two series against the White Sox and zero against KC, and the White Sox play…the Dodgers?

And the craziness isn’t limited to the Interleague games for the Cardinals. This year, they play the Milwaukee Brewers twenty times. Twenty! That means 1/8 of the Cards’ season will be spent playing the Brewers. Look, nothing against the Brew Crew here, but what exactly is the point of that? Want to know how that compares to the games the Cardinals play against the other teams in the NL Central? Take a look:

Houston Astros: 15 games

Chicago Cubs: 16 games

Pittsburgh Pirates: 15 games

Cincinnati Reds: 16 games

Gosh, that looks darn close to consistent. So how hard would it have been to take three games from the Brewers and make them Cardinals vs. White Sox games? That would give the Cards 17 games against the Brewers (which is much closer to the 15 or 16 that seems to be acceptable for the other teams in the NL Central) and would allow the Cardinals to play the White Sox along with all their other AL Central opponents. Maybe some other shuffling would be necessary, but it seems like it’s at least doable.

And I don’t even get paid for such things.


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