Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Year of the Horse 1954: Ellis Valentine 1981 Topps #445

Today we return to our Chinese New Years postings - in hindsight spacing these out across several postings may not have been a great idea. Today finds us on birth year 1954.

1981 Topps #445 Ellis Valentine (image swiped from baseball card database)

Iconic cards come in a couple different varieties.

The obvious ones are Cards of Superstars like Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays and Hall of Fame rookie cards. 

Less obvious are the quirky cards such as Oscar Gamble 1976T Traded or the 1975 Topps Kurt Bevacqua bubble gum champ card. The 1981T Ellis Valentine fits into this category. The partial face mask is one of the most memorable looks in baseball card history.  

Valentine wore the face mask to protect a jaw that was busted by a Roy Thomas pitch in an Expos Cardinals game on May 30 1980. The injury put Valentine on the DL for six weeks. The rest of the 1980 campaign went fairly well for Valentine, but he never really was the same hitter following that season.

Last year Jeff Pearlman (formerly of SI) published a very interesting interview with Ellis Valentine who credits Larry Doby as being a mentor early in his career. Valentine also discusses his drug use, apparently part of the turnaround was the beaning. After that Ellis could see his career would conclude at some point and he wanted to put 5 more years together to help with his finances and take care of his parents.

Those changes have led Ellis Valentine to a career in counseling. According to his linkedIn profile he is involved the mental health care field with a couple of organizations based in the Dallas Texas area.

If you want to keep up with Valentine he has a pretty active twitter feed @EValentine17. There is also a Ellis Valentine website where he offers the T-Shirt that evokes the half face mask featured on the 1981T card above.

Year of the Horse 1954
1954 YTH features a pretty stellar class of Hall of Famers including Ozzie Smith, Gary Carter, Dennis Eckersley and Valentine's Expos teammate Andre Dawson. Other 54 YTH are former Phil Keith Moreland, Willie Randolph, Ken Phelps Denny Martinez and two players that died young Mark Fidrych and Donnie Moore.

Year of the Horse Index
1954 Ellis Valentine
1966 Curt Schilling
1978 Jimmy Rollins
1990 Yasiel Puig

Jeff Pearlman
baseball card database

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a thousand words

a thousand words
2008 World Champions