Mark Ellis quietly retired last week as one of the best defensive second baseman of all time. (5th best all time fielding percentage.) Mark not only was a solid player on both sides of the ball, but he was refreshing as a stoic gamer in an era of clowns and sideshow men who hang on because of beards, salaries, tattoos, bobble heads and other assorted bric-a-brac. Mark was a real throw-back with a refreshing demeanor…play the game well without the nonsense.
I first encountered Mark in 2001. I was living in Sacramento at the time and the AAA River Cats were brand-spanking-new and the talk of the town. I, being a Oakland fan, thought I was dreaming as I lived mere blocks from their newly opened ballpark. I would walk or bike to the games after work more often than not with my girlfriend at the time, and he was one of our favorite players.
One of my favorite ballpark moments happened with Ellis–a simple moment, yet mere months before he was traded and never to be seen in an Athletics uniform again. It was Opening Day 2011 at the Coliseum. My girlfriend and I had long since taken separate paths…and I was by the dugout when I saw Mark and gave him but he sharpest nod as I threw him a baseball with all the zeal I could from 30 feet away. He caught it with one hand, signed it, and as fast as he has received it he fired it back to me as I caught it with one hand as well in a quickly forgotten moment of Zen mastery. The triangle was complete.
It’s easy to choose your baseball heroes…yet sometimes the universe chooses them for you in an act of randomness, justification, existentialism, stupefied vocation or something unspoken and equally nonsensical. Mine just happened to be one of the greatest second baseman of all time.
It is always fun to be a fan of “regular” players that often don’t get a lot of attention. Why else would I have so many Del Unser baseball cards?
Nice. I assure you that this is the first time I have seen someone mention Del Unser in a very long time. (I have my own short stack of his cards.)
The Dodgers were lucky to have him for a couple of years.
Yes, v. I told Dodgers fans that they would love him….and they did.
“… play the game well without the nonsense.” I like that, too. A toast to all the “stoic gamers” who are the red stitches that hold baseball together.
“… in a quickly forgotten moment of Zen mastery.” What a great line.
That was a nice phrase.
What a post, what a tribute! And no stats! but I must admit to looking up his Baseball reference page to browse the Ellis stats line and was surprised to see him born in South Dakota. Not that it matters ,but not many players born there; maybe 40 or so. I browsed the list and was glad to see Justin (help me with the spelling) Ducscherer I would start a team with Ellis and Ducscherer and feel pretty damn good about it.
Ellis was a guy fans of a certain type (like me) could like. Yes, he played and presented himself without some of the nonsense and such that is so prevalent these days. A summer following the Triple-A team back then sounds like a lot of fun.
I mainly follow the Cardinals and when I read that he retired I was a little bummed. I know he had a lack luster final season that ended with an oblique injury but I never felt like I got quite the chance to get to know him as a player like I normally do with Cardinals acquisitions. This article slightly helped that void, and I enjoyed reading your story. Always great to hear more about players who just go out and play and make a career of it but don’t lose sight of their fans all the while.