Ellis Valentine: Humanitarian

Fans of ‘80s baseball remember Ellis Valentine. He had an absolute cannon in right field for the Expos and was part of an incredibly talented outfield trio that featured, at various points, Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Warren Cromartie, Ron LeFlore and others.

Substance problems derailed his career somewhat but I recently ran across this story and had to share it. Based on this report from WFAA-TV, Ellis Valentine is still a star.

“The Kid” signed for me

I SUCKED at baseball when I was a kid.

I was among the t-ball elite of Oxford, Ohio back in 1977. But once the ball started moving, I began to experience tremendous difficulty at the plate. At the time, there was still room for all-glove, no-hit infielders in the big leagues, but being an all-glove, no-hit 11 year-old was a different story. As such, I had very little in common with my big-league heroes.

But Gary Carter was different. Gary Carter collected baseball cards, just like me. His collection was the subject of a feature story in the New York Times in July of 1980, where he detailed buying packs at the concession stand at Little League games and building sets when he was a kid.

Somehow, word of Carter’s collection reached me in Ohio and I wrote him a letter about it. I spent a lot of time writing letters to baseball players in the ’70s and ’80s asking for autographs. Some wrote back, many didn’t. But Carter did.

I have no idea what I said other than bringing up the fact that we both collected cards, a fact which separated me from practically none of the other kids who wrote requesting an autograph, but he wrote back.

Gary Carter autograph
My Gary Carter autograph

Once I sent a batch of letters I anxiously checked the mail each day and seeing the Montreal Expos envelope was a thrill. I got Gary Carter’s autograph!

Carter passed away far too young. Brain tumors took his life in 2012. He was only 57. But back in the early ’80s “The Kid” provided me with a thrill that lasts to this day.