#CardCorner: 1981 Topps Ellis Valentine
Ellis Valentine’s prodigious on-field talent brought him to the big leagues, and his struggles off it truncated one of the most promising careers of the late 1970s.
That has always been his legacy. But thanks to the proliferation of the new “face flap” batting helmets – and the indelible impression of Valentine’s 1981 Topps card – the former prized prospect of the Expos can add the word “trailblazer” to his resume.
Receive a baseball card autographed by a Hall of Famer with a gift of $1,000 or more. Your choice of Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage or Ozzie Smith.
Have your name listed on a plaque on one of the high-capacity card drawers within the Shoebox Treasures exhibit with a gift of $5,000 or more. Also includes autographed baseball card and name listed on exhibit credit panel.
Valentine is captured on the card in the on-deck circle of a visiting ballpark – perhaps Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium – during the second half of the 1980 season. He is sporting half of what looks like a football player’s facemask, covering his left cheek.
The mask is to protect Valentine from a repeat of what happened on May 30 of that year in St. Louis. Batting cleanup for the Expos in a game where he already tallied a three-run double (misplayed in left field by the Cardinals’ Ted Simmons, who was usually a catcher) and a walk, Valentine was hit the face by a pitch from Cardinals’ reliever Roy Thomas.
“(Home plate umpire Satch) Davidson said the ball went off Ellie’s hand or wrist and hit him on the face,” Expos manager Dick Williams told the Montreal Gazette after the game.
Valentine was admitted to a St. Louis hospital and was diagnosed with multiple facial fractures and a concussion. He was out of action until July 10 – and admitted later that he was never the same player after the beaning.
Valentine was not the first player to wear a mask at bat – Dave Parker of the Pirates experimented with football facemasks and even a hockey goalie mask in 1978 after a home-plate collision with Mets catcher John Stearns – but it was a rare sight during his era.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
For the first time in the Museum’s history we will take a comprehensive look at the history of baseball cards, collecting and the connection generations of fans have had to these Shoebox Treasures. We are in the midst of a public campaign to “get us home” and make Shoebox Treasures, the name of this exciting new exhibit, a reality. Will you consider making a one-time gift to help us reach our goal?
You can donate at www.baseballhall.org/shoeboxtreasures to help ensure that Shoebox Treasures will open in 2019.