Montreal Expos 1975-81
New York Mets 1981-82
California Angels 1983
Texas Rangers 1985
Unfortunately, Ellis Valentines' legacy in baseball has been one of wasted
talent. A supremely gifted athlete, Valentine was pegged for super stardom when he arrived in the big leagues with Montreal
in the late 1970s. But a string of injuries and a bout with chemical dependency never allowed him to reach his potential.
Entering the 1977 season the Montreal Expos were starved for a superstar talent. They had failed to lure free agent
Reggie Jackson north of the border, and were looking to the young outfield trio of Andre Dawson, Warren Cromartie, and Ellis
Valentine to provide the spark the franchise sorely needed.
The first athlete ever drafted out of LA's Crenshaw High
School, Valentine was hailed as the greatest prospect the Montreal organization had ever produced. At 6-4 205lbs, he was an
impressive physical specimen. Valentine had speed, power, and a cannon arm. Then Expos manager Dick Williams immediately touted
his rocket launcher as the best in league, comparing it to the legendary Roberto Clemente's.
After appearing in just
12 games in 1975, Valentine got his first significant taste of the major leagues in 1976, playing in 94 games and hitting
.279. Despite the limited playing time, the 22 year old finished fourth in the NL with 12 outfield assists.
built on his success in 1977, hitting .293 with 25 home runs. He seemed to just be scratching the surface of his immense talent.
He posted another solid offensive season in '78, once again belting 25 home runs and was awarded his only Gold Glove after
leading the majors with 24 outfield assists.
By 1979 the once doormat Expos were contenders. With a nucleus of Valentine,
Dawson, Cromartie, Gary Carter, Bill Gullickson, and Steve Rogers the Expos were the most exciting young team in baseball.
A World Series seemed to be in the future of the Expos. Valentine posted his third straight 20 home run season in
'79 and the Expos won 95 games, but they were unable to overtake the eventual World Champion Pirates and were at home for
The Expos again contended in 1980, winning 90 games, but finished one game behind the Phillies for the
NL East crown. Valentine was on course for possibly his greatest season, but was hit in the face with a pitch on May 30th
and missed 40 games with a broken cheekbone. He finished the season with a .315 average and 13 home runs in 86 games. His
injury may have been what kept the Expos out of the post season.
Valentine got off to a slow start in 1981, and was
dealt to the New York Mets on May 29th for P Jeff Reardon, OF Dan Norman, and player to be named later. He finished the season
with a miserable .208 average, and rumors of drug abuse began to swirl.
Although he rebounded to hit a solid .288
in 1982, Valentine's power was gone as he hit just eight home runs in 337 at bats. He then moved west, and spent the 1983
season with the California Angels hitting .240 in a part time role.
After spending the 1984 campaign out of the majors,
Valentine resurfaced in 1985 with the Texas Rangers. His stint in Texas was brief, however, consisting of just 38 at bats
in 11 games. It would be his last stop in the big leagues. Ellis Valentine hit .278 with 123 home runs in his 10 year career.
By the time his baseball career had concluded, Valentine's life was in shambles. Having led the big league lifestyle
for a number of years, Valentine found himself chemically dependent and out of work.
Instead of sulking and sliding
into oblivion like many in his position have done, Valentine swallowed his pride and took at job at a rental car company earning
$4.25 per hour. Today Valentine teaches youths at A.V. Light Foundation about the pitfalls of life. He is at peace with himself
and has become an upstanding member of the community.
-David Zingler, October 2002
Valentine @ Baseball-Reference.com
Simply Baseball Notebook
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