Expos history: Happy “Ellis” Valentine’s!

Montreal Expos History – Ellis Valentine’s performance with Expos

In honour of this Valentine’s day, let’s take a walk down memory lane and look back at Ellis and what he brought to the Montreal Expos – and other teams – over his career.

Selected by the Expos in the 2nd round of the 1972 draft, 29th overall, Ellis Clarence Valentine hailed from Helena Arkansas but was attending Crenshaw HS (Los Angeles) when selected in the draft. He had played both football and baseball in High School, showing great athleticism in both sports.

One signed, Valentine hit .266/.330/.328 and managed 18 BB, 37 SO over 197 PA in rookie ball. He moved on quickly to A ball, where he improved to .308/.371/.432 with 30 XBH in 452 PA. That performances was good enough to get him moved up to AA in 1974, then AAA for 1975 before getting playing time with the Expos (12 games worth) and leaving enough of a mark to earn a shot at The Show to begin the 1976 season.

This is where it gets interesting, because Valentine took over RF from none other than future Hall-of-Famer Gary Carter, who was headed back to Catcher. Not only was Carter highly thought of at the time, but he’d managed to place 2nd in rookie of the year voting in 1975 and made the all-star team, leaving the bar high for Mr. Valentine.

With “The Kid” behind the plate, Valentine played 94 games and managed to hit .279/.339/.410 with 24 extra-base hits, 14 SB (1 CS), 111 wRC+ and 1.7 WAR. Not bad overall, but he did struggle badly to begin the season and needed some time in AAA to get himself back on track.

From there on, Valentine put up the following four strong seasons with the Expos,

  • 1977 – 25 HR / 13 SB / .363 wOBA / 123 wRC+ / 3.7 WAR
  • 1978 – 25 HR / 13 SB / .364 wOBA / 130 wRC+ / 5.4 WAR
  • 1979 – 21 HR / 11 SB / .331 wOBA / 105 wRC+ / 2.3 WAR
  • 1980 – 13 HR / 5 SB / .394 wOBA / 151 wRC+ / 3.4 WAR

In short, Valentine was well above-average over that stretch and also added a high of 24 assists in 1978, proving to be a great defender in the OF. Need proof?

“There’s a plateau where you can’t throw the ball any harder and you can’t be any more accurate,” says Montreal manager Felipe Alou. “That was Ellis Valentine.”

What a gift! Now, with this in mind, let’s look at another decent video showing off some of his greatest highlights,

If you did take the time to watch the two videos above, you get a feel for how important he was to the Expos and how electrifying he was to their fans.

Now that we’ve looked at some of his career’s achievements, let’s hear from the man himself and see what his thoughts are on his career, his love affair with the city and its fans, and how fondly he looks back on his time with the Expos,

As you can hear in the interview, he’s had his struggles off-the-field and has learned what he needed to from them. Others will also remember him being ejected in 1979 because he didn’t agree with a force out call at 2nd base and he wound up bumping an ump, earning himself a 3-game suspension. He had the last laugh, however, as that seemed to get his bat going and he wound up having one of the better stretches of his career thereafter.

In terms of career highlights, Ellis Valentine remembers fondly throwing out Pete Rose, something he mentions rarely happened, he made the All-Star (1977) team and won a Gold Glove Award (1978).

Both of those battles – personal and professional – point to the kind of man Ellis is and how he is able to rise to challenges he faces and overcome them.

If you want another angle and great article on Valentine, look at link in the following tweet,

If you’re looking for Ellis Valentine online, you can find him at @EValentine17, as he’s kept up with the times and recently posted the following, 

Hopefully we’ll see some of you there and get to listen to a few good stories from one of the best Montreal Expos outfielders in their history.

As always, thanks for reading and hope this brought back some lovely memories for some and added some for others.

– Mat Germain, baseball writer for Expos Reloaded and SB Nation’s DRaysBay, with more than 10 years covering the Toronto Blue Jays (Jays Journal) and Tampa Bay Rays. Still serving in the Canadian Armed Forces as a Reservist and Operations Officer for 413 Search and Rescue Squadron in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. Follow Mat on Twitter @MatGermain76.

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