Jul 27, 2015

Early Eighties Mets Outfielder: Ellis Valentine (1981-1982)

Ellis Clarence Valentine was born on July 30, 1954 in Helena, Arizona. The six foot four, right handed hitting outfielder went to high school in Los Angeles getting drafted by the Montreal Expos in the second round in 1972.

Within three years he flew through the minors & was batting .306 at AAA Memphis with 13 HRs when he got a call up. Valentine made his MLB debut on September 3rd, 1975 in Philadelphia going hitless in three at bats. He played in 12 games at the end of the 1975 season batting an impressive .364.

In the bicentennial year he played in the outfield alongside Gary Carter & Bombo Rivera but he was batting just .238 in June & was sent down to tune up at AAA Denver. He returned to put in a good enough year batting .279

Ron Leflore, Ellis Valentine & Gary Carter
It didn't take the league long to see that Valentine had a rocket launcher for an arm.

His manager Dick Williams boasted, he had the best arm in the NL & compared it to Roberto Clemente’s. That season he finished fourth in the NL with 12 assists.

In 1977 the Expos failed to lure Reggie Jackson to Canada through free agency, and decided to go with their home grown talented young outfield, Andre Dawson, Warren Cromarte & Ellis Valentine. On April 15th he hit the first HR ever hit in the brand new Olympic Stadium.

Over the next three seasons Valentine would hit over 20 HRs, drive in 75 runs or more, get over 150 hits, 28 doubles & steal at least 13 bases. His defense in the outfield was one of the best in baseball. Valentine was originally a center fielder but then switched to right field in 1977. He made the All Star team that year, going 0-1 with a walk in the National Leagues 7-5 win in New York.

In 1978 & 1979 he won the Gold Glove Award, while leading the league with 24 assists in '78. The Expos became true contenders winning 90 games in 1979 & 1980, finishing up in second place both years under skipper Dick Williams.

In 1980 Valentine was having a great start until he was hit in the cheekbone with a pitch and missed 40 games. That injury may have cost the Epos their playoff hopes, in 86 games he hit .315 with 13 HRs & 67 RBIs.

In the strike shortened 1981 season, they made their first post season. That year Valentine started off slow batting just .211 in 22 games & rumors about him using drugs began to swirl. After the first part of the year he was traded to the New York Mets for Jeff Reardon & Dan Norman. The Expos beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS &lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers on the NLCS. It was their only post season appearance in franchise history.

Ellis Valentine debuted as a Met on June 7th at the Houston Astrodome, batting 5th & playing left field. In his first game at Shea Stadium he had two hits & drove in a run in a 8-4 loss against the Cincinnati Reds. After that Series the baseball strike happened for the next two months. Upon returning he hit safely in eight of the next ten games.

Valentine & Mets Manager Joe Torre
On August 19th he homered off the Atlanta Braves Tommy Boggs and hit another ten days later. They were the only two HRs he hit that month.

One of his biggest days as a Met came at Wrigley field on September 24th. He hit two HRs that day driving in five runs, in the Mets 10-9 loss to the Cubs. In 48 games that season he only batted .207 with 5 HRs 8 doubles 21 RBIs & a poor .227 on base %.

In 1982 he was penciled in as the Mets everyday right fielder, alongside a young Mookie Wilson & veteran George Foster. It looked good on paper but Foster & Valentine disappointed as the Mets finished a disappointing sixth. Valentine was limited to 111 games, batting .288 but his power never came back, he did not hit his first HR until May 24th.

That week he hit three HRs, all in Mets victories closing out the month with three straight two RBI games.

On June 14th he hit a two run HR scoring both Mets runs helping Pete Falcone beat Pittsburgh's Don Robinson. On August 22nd he drove in four runs in Atlanta although the Mets still fell short 10-9.

Overall he hit just 8 HRs with 14 doubles & 48 RBIs posting a .294 on base %. He played a quality defense throwing out 12 base runners with his strong arm & posted a .983 fielding %. The Mets chose not to resign Valentine after the 1982 season, and he signed with the California Angels.

Valentines career had fallen apart by this time, he became a reserve outfielder batting only .240. He was out of baseball in 1984 except for four minor league games, then returned for one season with the Texas Rangers playing in just 11 games batting .211.

He finished a once promising career with a 278 batting average, 881 hits 123 HRs 169 doubles 474 RBIs & a .315 on base %. In 856 games he posted a .972 on base % with 85 outfield assists.

Retirement: After baseball he struggled with his substance abuse problems & was working in a car rental place, making just $4.50 an hour.

He eventually straightened out his life and began working with youngsters in the A.V. Light Foundation. Today he is a counselor for a Church located in Grand Prarie Texas.

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