A former Beaver wins a World Series ring for himself, and free tacos for everybody else.
Beaver alum Jacoby Ellsbury is a bona fide star. In center field and at the plate, he helped his baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, win a lopsided 2007 World Series. But he also won national attention — and the hearts of millions of taco fans — when he stole second base in Game 2 of the series. A certain fast-food franchise had wagered that nobody would steal a base in the series, and pledged to hand out free tacos if it lost — and on Oct. 30, millions of people crowded Taco Bells nationwide to claim their Ellsbury-won prize. Ellsbury himself greeted fans at a Taco Bell near Boston University.
A native of Madras, Ore., Ellsbury led the OSU Beavers to the College World Series in 2005. His teammates called him Jack, as in jackrabbit, because of his speed and ability to avoid getting tagged out. The Beavers didn’t win the series that year, but the 2005 appearance set up back-to-back College World Series championships for the Beavers in 2006 and 2007. By that time, Ellsbury had already been drafted by the Red Sox as a first-round pick. After playing for Boston farm teams in Portland, Maine, and Pawtucket, R.I., he was called up to the majors for the first time last June.
OSU baseball coach Pat Casey was one of the first people Ellsbury called after getting called up to Fenway Park. After that first major league game, Casey overheard somebody compare Ellsbury to former Boston star outfielder Johnny Damon. “Johnny Damon is a great player,” Casey told the Boston Herald. “But Jacoby Ellsbury is going to be a superstar player.”
Ellsbury’s performance in a Red Sox uniform impressed manager Terry Francona so much he included him in the starting lineup when the Red Sox made it into the World Series. Red Sox fans helped that decision, signing a petition to have Ellsbury start in the series and calling in to local radio shows. And Ellsbury didn’t disappoint, batting in three runners with his seven hits during the series. “It’s unbelievable,” Ellsbury told MLB.com after the final game. “I still can’t believe it. You dream about it, but for it to happen, it’s so unbelievable.”
Ellsbury’s mother is a full-blooded Navajo, and he is a registered member of the Colorado River Indians Tribe. He is the first Navajo to play in the Major Leagues, a distinction he was unaware of until the media informed him. “I didn’t know until I found out in the paper,” Jacoby told the Farmington, N.M, Daily Times. “I think it’s pretty neat. I’m surprised there hasn’t been one before.”