John Ellis, who played with the Yankees from 1969 to 1972, died Tuesday at age 73 from a recurrence of cancer.
The first baseman and catcher, a native of New London, Connecticut, also played with the Indians and Rangers during his 13-year career which began in 1969 and ended in 1981. Later in his life, Ellis was best known for his charitable works. in the fight against cancer.
The Yankees, who were impressed with Ellis’ right-handed power bat, signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1969, and he was recalled from the Bombers at age 20. He had an immediate impact in his first game on May 17. hit an inside-the-park home run against the Angels in left-center field, the original “Death Valley” of the old Yankee Stadium.
“I remember when he hit his home run inside the park,” Ron Blomberg, Ellis’ teammate from 1969 to 1972, told the Hartford Courant. “Being 6-3, weighing 225 pounds, being linebacker [in high school] and being a moose, you could see him running. He was a great athlete. He always had tons of fans from New London and Mystic and Groton.
“He was the Connecticut bully. He was a great athlete, he was a great teammate, he was great because every time we fought on the pitch he was the first one involved.
Ellis, who was a Yankee from 1969 to 1973, played in 883 big league games and had a .262 career average with 69 home runs and 391 RBIs. He was backup to Thurman Munson and first baseman Ron Blomburg during his time in the Bronx.
After the 1972 season, Ellis was part of a trade that brought third baseman Graig Nettles, a key contributor to the 1977–78 Yankees championship teams, to New York. In April 1973, after Blomberg became the first designated hitter in baseball history, Ellis became Cleveland’s first DH.
Ellis, who had a successful real estate career and was an avid fisherman after his baseball career, was diagnosed in 1986 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a condition that also claimed the lives of his brother, sister and daughter. sister in law.
According to the Courant, Ellis would often tell the story of lying in a hospital bed: “I said to God, ‘You let me live and I’ll help anyone I can.'”
Ellis overcame the disease and in 1987, with his wife Jane, founded the Connecticut Sports Foundation against Cancer, now known as the Connecticut Cancer Foundation.
The CCF has raised more than $9 million for cancer research and to support cancer-stricken families, according to the Courant. The Ellis’ annual banquet, the most recent at the Mohegan Sun, has grown from year to year and has attracted many baseball stars, starting with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.
New York Post