Marion Elliott has been singled out for his devotion and untiring efforts to see that the 13 to 15-year-olds in Manteca and in the Western United States got their chance at bat in the character building program known as Babe Ruth Baseball.
The Manteca resident has been inducted into the Babe Ruth League International Hall of Fame.
It was nearly 50 years ago that Elliott – a retired Manteca educator and school principal – organized the first Babe Ruth team in Manteca after being contacted by the then Stockton Chief of Police Jack O’Keefe. Marion remembers well the chief telling him that for every 18 players on the field playing baseball there are 18 kids not on the streets getting into trouble.
“That made an impression on me,” he said. “Here is a chief law enforcement officer telling me that, and telling me why he was a volunteer in the Babe Ruth League Program. Kids who are playing baseball are not doing other things some of which would have negative connotations. That made an impression on me that kept me in the Babe Ruth program. Another reason is that I simply like to watch kids play baseball – it’s a simple game, and it gives them something to do,” he said. President and CEO of the Babe Ruth program, Steven Tellefsen remarked that people who make a difference aren’t the ones who talk about it or who take credit for anything. They just give over and over again with their time and with their resources.
“Such is the case with Marion Elliott,” Tellefsen said.
The presentation of his plaque and his induction took place at the recent Hall of Fame Dinner at the Marriott Harbor Beach Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He was only one of two to be enshrined with the coveted honor.
Other notable individuals already in the Babe Ruth Hall of Fame since its inception 40 years ago include Lefty Gomez, a New York Yankee’s pitcher, who still holds the record for the number of World Series games won. He was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Lefty was a longtime Babe Ruth volunteer – not as a coach, but as a member of the international board.
“I had met Lefty about 1989 and he died in 1990 – they elected me in 1990 to take Lefty’s place. Carl Yastrzemski is in the Babe Ruth Hall of Fame and in the national Baseball Hall of Fame. Brooks Robinson too – those are the three that come to mind. So I’m in good company, but I’ll tell you I’m humbled by all of this. I never expected to be in anything like this – these things are not given out cheaply,” he said.
Elliott said Lefty Gomez was one of the funniest guys he had ever met with so many funny baseball stories.
For his last five years on the International Board of Directors, he served on the Hall of Fame Selection Committee making him familiar with the process a nominee is put through in their consideration.
Elliott’s wife Mona, along with their family members Chris Elliott, Susan Swift and Cathy Long were at the awards dinner to see Marion inducted and to make his acceptance speech.
He began his affiliation with the Babe Ruth organization in 1962 as a volunteer going on to serve as league president and then as a district commissioner. He held that position from 1965 to 1967. The retired Manteca educator was elevated to the post of Central California State Commissioner from 1977 continuing until 1989 when he was elected to the Babe Ruth League, Inc. Board of Directors in the role of Pacific Southwest Regional Commissioner – retiring from the national youth baseball program in 2008.
During the summer of 1962 when Elliott kicked off the Babe Ruth program in Manteca, he had just finished his fourth year of teaching in the elementary grades. One of his first coaches was a young Willie Weatherford who coached a team called “Manteca Police.”
Elliott’s teaching career had begun in 1958 at New Haven School on Austin Road.
Teachers in those days had to have a summer job because they weren’t getting paid during the summer as they were on a 10-month contract. He was working directing youth baseball for the city recreation department when he was contacted by Stockton Police Chief Jack O’Keefe.
Elliott quoted him as saying, “You don’t have a baseball program down there in Manteca for kids 13 through 15, do you? Well I’m connected with Babe Ruth Baseball – a regulation baseball program – and we’d like to start a program in Manteca.”
Elliott took the reins and did the leg work to get the program off the ground here. He organized the program. He remembered one of the first players, John Tubbs, who was 15 years old – now in his early 60s.
After eight years teaching at New Haven, Elliott went to teach seventh and eighth grade at Golden West Elementary on North Main Street. With the unification of the school district in 1966, New Haven was categorized as a K-6 school which prompted another move, this time to Golden West.
He was at Golden West for a year before having an opportunity to teach at Lathrop School where he taught until 1972 – then becoming a vice principal at Lathrop. In 1976 he was to become the vice principal at Manteca High School – three years later taking on the principal duties at Lincoln Elementary School. He served there for nearly 17 years, retiring in 1995.
Elliott’s connection with the local program ended in 1965 when he became the district commissioner.
The Manteca Babe Ruth program that began in 1962 is still going strong being the oldest youth athletic program in Manteca, he said. It is older than official Little League, older than any of the youth football programs. With 15 players on a team with anywhere from four to six to eight to 12 teams in the league for any given year – that represents many, many boys who have been touched by Babe Ruth Baseball, all beginning with the efforts of Marion Elliott.
As the regional commissioner over the Western States and the Territory of Guam, he would travel to the different states, California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and even Hawaii. California was split into three states for Babe Ruth purposes – northern, central and Southern California because of their great number of leagues.
He would select one state for a regional tournament and oversee teams and their families traveling to the tournament location. “You can imagine parents from a team in Sacramento going to Phoenix or Salt Lake City – they’re all excited to see the programs all laid out with different pages showing different people’s pictures – team pictures mostly.”
Elliott spent some 10 years at that level. He said he got tired of all the state-to-state travel and told his administrator that he wanted to be a regional commissioner, because he didn’t have the time for all the traveling. They still wanted him to be on the international board of directors and he was made an at-large member.
His last six years on the international board was as an at-large member rather than as a regional commissioner. Along with the eight regional commissioners in the United States and Canada are members of the board plus there are three at-large members. Elliott spent 12 years as a regional commissioner.
“I used to enjoy talking to the Babe Ruth guys in Guam, because there was an 18-hour difference. You’d have to be sure to call them about four in the afternoon so I would get them up the next morning about nine,” he chuckled.
His most cherished memory is seeing a 16-year-old Manteca team go to the World Series from East Union High School – about seven or eight years ago. Ben Triglia was the manager taking them to Russellville, Arkansas. It was the first and only Manteca Babe Ruth team to go to a World Series.
“One kid off that team is now playing class A baseball for the Oakland A’s organization. In fact he was at the Stockton Ports this last season – Justin Friend. There were numerous other kids who went on to play minor league professional baseball,” he said.
Marion Elliott also spent 25 years on the executive board for the San Joaquin section of the California Interscholastic Federation. He officiated at high school sporting events including football, basketball and baseball for 45 years within the San Joaquin section and has already been elevated to the Manteca High School and the San Joaquin County halls of fame.
He gave his time to the City of Manteca for 16 as a member of the Manteca Planning Commission and was assigned to several committees for the city.