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MLB pitcher Doc Ellis passes

Lee Jackson | 1/7/2009, 5 p.m.

Los Angeles, CA - Dock Ellis, former major league pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, died Friday Dec. 19 of liver disease at County-USC Medical Center. He was 63.

The Apple Valley, Calif. resident was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver the day after Thanksgiving.

Ellis reportedly suffered heart damage within the last few weeks that made a liver transplant impossible, leaving him on life support.

Ellis was a pitcher in the major leagues from 1968 to 1979 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, compiling a record of 138-119. He also had a record of 17-8 for the American League champion New York Yankees in 1976.

Toward the end of his career, Ellis began counseling addicts incarcerated at a Pittsburgh penitentiary. It was work that he loved and he continued drug counseling for the rest of his career in San Bernardino County and Adelanto in California. He was also a critic of racism in baseball and expressed views that players should have the right to free agency.

Born March 11, 1945, Ellis had begun drinking and using drugs while attending Gardena High School. He admitted that when he played in the major leagues, he popped pills until he went into rehabilitation 28 years ago.

In addition to his wife, Hjordis, Ellis is survived by three children, a granddaughter and a sister.