Profile by BCB reader Dan
Richard Clark (Dick) Ellsworth was born on March 22, 1940 in Lusk, Wyoming (a town that had a population in the 2000 census of 1,447), and then grew up in Fresno, California, attending Fresno High School; some other noted MLB players from Fresno High include Tom Seaver and Jim Maloney. A tall (6'4") lefthander, Dick was signed right after graduation by the Cubs in 1958, and made his Major League debut on June 22 that same year, starting the first game of a doubleheader at Crosley Field in Cincinnati against the Reds.
Dick started out well - staked to a one run lead via an Ernie Banks RBI single in the first - he subsequently allowed the tying run to score in the bottom of the second before self-destructing in the bottom of the third. After a groundout to third, Dick followed with a walk, a wild pitch, a single, another wild pitch and another walk before giving way to Glen Hobbie. Hobbie promptly gave up a grand slam homer to Gus Bell, resulting in the following line for Ellsworth: 2.1 IP, 4H, 4R, 3BB, 0K, 2WP and 1HBP. That outing was the last for Ellsworth until the 1960 season when he made 31 appearances (27 starts), compiling a 3.72 ERA over 176.2 innings.
Ellsworth, as well as the Cubs, struggled through tough seasons in 1961 and 1962, but it all came together for Dick in 1963. Used exclusively as a starter, and with the help of a wicked slider, Dick set the Cubs record for wins by a left hander (which still stands), winning 22 games over 37 starts (against 10 losses), racking up 290.2 innings pitched. Dick had 2.11 ERA on the year and a now unheard-of 19 complete games - meaning Rich Hill and Sean Marshall have their work cut out for them should they attempt to break his records. Forty-three years later, he is still the last Cub lefthanded pitcher to win twenty games in a season.
Notable games that year for Ellsworth included a 2-hitter against the Pirates on May 9th, a 1-hitter against the Phillies on June 1st, a 10-strikeout performance against Stan Musial's Cardinals on July 28th, and a 10-inning (no decision) performance against Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers on August 7th. Dick won his 22nd game of the 1963 campaign on September 28th against the Milwaukee Braves, and finished 5th in the NL for wins (Koufax and Marichal led with 25), and second in ERA behind Koufax's 1.88. All of this got him 19th place in the NL MVP voting (at the time, there was only one Cy Young Award for both leagues and Koufax won it unanimously). At the age of 22, he was considered the second-best lefty in the NL, behind only Koufax, and his future seemed limitless.
Ellsworth's breakout year in 1963 led to his only All-Star Game selection in 1964, although he did not pitch in the game.
Unfortunately for Ellsworth and the Cubs, he was never again able to match his 1963 performance, winning only 14 games in 1964 and 1965. The wheels came off completely by 1966, when Ellsworth set another Cubs record for left-handers, though not one he would have liked to have: most losses in a season with 22, against only 8 wins. Following the 1966 season, Ellsworth was traded to Philadelphia for right-hander Ray Culp and cash.
Ellsworth lasted one year with the Phillies before being traded to Boston after the 1967 season. He had a good year in Boston in 1968 (16-7, 3.03 ERA), and then was sent to the Indians in one of those deals you rarely see these days -- a six-player trade occurring ten days into the season; Ellsworth and Juan Pizarro and Ken Harrelson (now how's that for some Chicago-connected names?) were traded to Cleveland for Sonny Siebert, Vicente Romo and Joe Azcue. In his last two seasons he was used almost exclusively in relief, appearing in only 11 games with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1971 before being released.
Notes: Over his 13-season career, Ellsworth posted a 115-137 record with 1140 strikeouts and a 3.72 ERA in 2155.2 innings. Like his teammate Bill Hands, Dick wasn't a very good hitter -- having only 59 career hits (55 singles, two doubles, two triples) in 673 at-bats, a career average of .088. Dick is the father of righthander Steve Ellsworth, who was chosen in the first round of the 1981 amateur draft (ninth pick overall) by the Red Sox. His son's career never got off the ground with Boston; he started seven games in 1988, winning one and compiling a 6.75 ERA.
After leaving baseball as a player, Ellsworth returned to his hometown of Fresno and got involved in the commercial real estate industry, where he still works today. In late 2005, he got back into baseball, as one of the ownership partners of the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League:
Chris became involved with projects in Fresno and met former major league pitcher Dick Ellsworth, who spent a season with Chris's beloved [Red] Sox. "When I met Dick, it dawned on me that he was the same guy whose pitches I heard called on my transistor radio."
Now a commercial realtor in Fresno, Ellsworth resurrected Chris's dreams of becoming involved in baseball. Dick's friends owned the Grizzlies and wanted to sell. Before you can say "Strrr-ike three," Cummings formed Fresno Baseball Club, LLC, with brother Bill, Ellsworth, and a fourth partner.