May 12, 2016

N.Y. Mets Player/ Coach/ Manager /Broadcaster: Bobby Valentine (1977-2014)

Robert John Valentine was Born May 13, 1950 in Stamford, Connecticut. The five foot ten right hand hitting Valentine was a star baseball & football player at Rippowam, High School at Stamford. He is considered to be one of the best high school athletes in Connecticut's state history.

He was recruited by the University of Nebraska, Duke, Notre Dame & the University of Southern California, but wound up signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team instead in 1969. Valentine hit immediately, becoming the Pacific Coast League MVP in 1970, at AA Spokane a team managed by future Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda.

Valentine hit .340 with 14 HRs & 80 RBIs helping the Spokane Indians to the league championship. He had come up briefly for five games in 1969 but wasn't ready, returning to the minors until 1971.

Valentine made his MLB debut on April 7th 1971 playing right field in the third game of the Dodgers season. On May 19th he singled off Bob Gibson in the bottom of the 8th inning in what turned out to be the games winning run, against the St. Louis Cardinals. That season he played in 101 games hitting .249 with one HR, ten doubles, two triples a .287 on base %, 25 RBIs & 70 hits overall. Valentine would never be a power hitter, only hitting 12 career HRs.

In 1972 he raised his average to .274 with three HRs 32 RBIs & 107 hits in only 119 games. Being a top prospect with a bright future he was involved in a big Los Angeles area trade in November 1972. Valentine, along with Frank Robinson, Billy Grabarkewitz, & Bill Singer went to the California Angels for Ken McMullen and Andy Messersmith who became one of the NLs top pitched over the next few seasons.

Things started out great in Anaheim for Bobby V. in 1973, he was batting over .300 after 32 games, until he suffered one of the worst injuries of that that era. He crashed into the wall at full speed, at Anaheim Stadium chasing a possible HR ball. Valentine suffered a broken leg & after the injury was never the same type of player. The once highly anticipated playing career was never what it was expected to be.

The following year he returned and had just 371 at bats and hit .261 with three HRs, ten doubles, 39 RBIs & a .308 on base %. He was traded to the San Diego Padres for Gary Ross but only played in 22 games from mid 1975 & all of the 1976 season due to injuries. In 1977 Valentine got into 86 games but was only hitting .179 when he was traded to the New York Mets along with Paul Siebert in exchange for slugger, Dave Kingman.

It was nice to be back in the tri-state area for Bobby V, except for the fact that the Mets were in last place and he was struggling at the plate. Valentine debuted as a Met player on June 17th pinch hitting against the Houston Astros going 0-1. On June 29th he hit a rare HR, had three hits & helped the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Phillies at Shea Stadium. Valentine only able to bat .133 in 42 games for the '77 Mets going 11-83 with one HR & three RBIs. Bobby V. was the Mets ultimate utility player, playing every infield position in his Mets career.

In 1977 he played 15 games at first, 14 games at short, & four games at third base, as well as used in a pinch hitting role. In 1978 he was once again a utility player.

On April 18th he doubled with the bases loaded scoring Lee Mazzilli & Willie Montanez as the winning runs in a 3-2 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis. On May 4th he hit a rare HR, a three run shot in Atlanta helping the Mets beat the Braves 8-2.

On May 11th in Montreal his base hit was his second RBI of the game & the games winning run to beat the Expos 3-2. On the year he raised his batting average 136 points from the past season, to a respectable .269 in 160 at bats. He had 43 hits, seven doubles, one HR and 18 RBIs with a .346 on base %. Defensively he saw the most time at second base (45) games with nine games at third base.

That summer Valentine also won the Mets-Dodgers Bubble gum blowing contest. The Mets released Bobby V. at the end of Spring Training 1979. He ended up finishing his playing career in Seattle with a .276 batting average for the '79 Mariners. 

In his ten year playing career he hit .260 with 441 hits, 12 HRs 59 doubles 9 triples 140 walks 157 RBIs & a .315 on base percentage. On the field he played 161 games at short, 128 games in the outfield, 120 games at second base, 106 games at third 23 games at first base & even two games at catcher.   

Coach: He has managed the Texas Rangers (1985–1992) the New York Mets (1996–2002) and in Japan(1995, 2003-). After his playing days Valentine began his coaching career as a minor league infield instructor for the San Diego Padres in (1980 -1981).

The next season he served as the Mets minor league instructor and in November 1982 was named to the Mets big league coaching staff. Bobby V. became the team’s third base coach, also handling the infield and base-running instructions. As a coach he worked under three Mets managers; George Bamberger (1982) Frank Howard (1983) and Davey Johnson (1984).

Bobby quickly became a popular figure as a Mets coach and his talents were recognized throughout the league as potential future manager.

Manager: In 1985 the Texas Rangers gave him his first chance as a big league manager taking over for the fired Dave Rader. Valentine was still just 35 years old when he began his managing career. 

In his first season he went 53-76 as the Rangers finished seventh. The next season he came in second for the A.L. Manager-of-the-Year Award by leading the Rangers to an 87-75 record, an increase of 25 victories from 1985. The next two seasons his team fell to sixth but saw another turn around in 1989. He led them to a 83-79 record (.512%) and a fourth place finish.

In 1990 & 1991 he led the Rangers to two straight third place finishes on a staff headed by veteran Nolan Ryan. Valentine remained in Arlington, Texas through the 1992 season, and become the winningest manager in Rangers history. He still holds the club record for most Ranger victories. After his stint in Texas, he worked for the Cincinnati Reds as an advance scout the first part of the year.

In May of 1993 he joined manager Davey Johnson’s staff as the third base coach for the Reds. The following season he came back at home with the Mets, as the AAA Norfolk Tides manager going 67-75.

From there he went to Japan to manage the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1995, leading the club to second place, their best finish in twenty years. He returned to the AAA Norfolk Tides for the 1996 season taking them to another winning season (82-59).

On August 26th,1996 he replaced Dallas Green as the16th manager in New York Mets history. He finished out the year 12-19 in fourth place. In 1997 he improved to a third place finish posting an 88-74 winning record. In 1998 he took the club one step further finishing with the same record but in second place behind the Atlanta Braves. Bobby turned the Mets around quickly and they soon became a contender in the NL East. 

Valentine's managing in the late 1990s early 2000s gave the club a resurgence, getting them to the post season two straight seasons. In 1999 he led the club to 97 wins going 97-66 (.595 %) and an NL wild card berth. At first the Mets tied for the wild card title, forcing a one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds. The Mets lost the coin toss & played the game on the road in Cincinnati.

That Day Al Leiter went out and shut out the Reds 5-0 advancing the Mets to the post season for the first time since 1988. Valentines Mets beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS three games to one, topped off by Todd Pratt's dramatic walk off HR. In the NLCS they were stopped by the Atlanta Braves in six games.

Trivia: Valentine is infamous for an incident during a 1999 game where he had been thrown out of a game after arguing with an umpire. He was discovered wearing a disguise; a change of clothes, sunglasses, and a mustache painted on with eye black, sitting in the Mets dugout.

In 2000 the Mets won 94 games and another wild card berth. It was the first time in their history the team made the post season in consecutive seasons. They beat the San Francisco Giants again in the NLDS in five games and then the St. Louis Cardinals in six games of the NLCS.

The 2000 National League Champions, won the teams first Pennant in twelve years. Although they lost the Subway World Series, Valentine deserves huge credit for leading the Mets that far. The outfield consisted of no power hitter (the most HRs by a 2000 Met outfielder was 17).

He managed to get the most out of what he had to work with although his style was considered very controversial, yet successful. wins. As a Mets Manager in six seasons, from 1996-2002  Valentine compiled a 536-467 record with a .553 winning percentage. He is second to Davey Johnson for most wins as a Mets Manager (595 wins). His winning percentage is third best for Mets Managers.

Valentine notched his 1,000th managerial victory on July 12, 2001 in a 2-0 win vs. the Boston Red Sox becoming the 48th manager in major league history to reach the 1,000-win plateau. The 2001 Mets struggled through the year, but in September had new life & competed for the wild card race. They would finish 82-80, six games behind the Braves.

911: Following the 911 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001, the parking lot at Shea was turned into a rescue station. Bobby Valentine & some Mets players helped distribute Food, supplies and medical equipment.

He & the team wore caps in honor of the police, fire and emergency service departments. The Mets hosted the first professional sporting event in New York City after the September 11th attacks, a game between the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium.

The Mets had a gala event for New York honoring the victims, their families & the rescue workers involved. To top it off Mike Piazza cracked a two-run game winning HR in the 8th inning to lift the Mets & the city to a 3-2 victory. It remains one of the greatest Mets moments in their history.

In 2002 on his way to the ball park while listening to the radio Bobby V. learned that GM Steve Phillips had fired his coaching staff. He was shocked and appalled that it was done without his knowledge.

This was the continuation of Steve Phillips ruining the Mets team and running it into the ground. Bobby V. was fired in 2003 after Phillip’s free agent signings Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn & Jeremy Burnitz were all failures.

Valentine served one season as an analyst for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. Then he went back to manage in Japan where he is treated like a rock star. There he is a known National Celebrity that has a beer & a hamburger named after him. Valentine served his second stint as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines (2004—2009).

In 2005 he led the Marines to their first pennant in 31 years & a Japan Series four game sweep over the Hanshin Tigers. He then led his team to the Asia Series Championship over the Samsung Lions of Korea. He asked for a series to play the winner of the MLB World Series but that never came to pass.

In 2005, he led the Marines to the Pacific League pennant & in 2006 the Japan Series championship. However, he was eventually fired in 2009 due to the personal conflict with the general manager, despite having a huge fan support.

Broadcaster: Valentine then went to work the Sunday Night Baseball telecasts as an analyst for ESPN. He worked alongside Orel Hershiser & Dan Shulman for the 2010 & 2011 seasons.

In 2012 he was named manager of the Boston Red Sox after their 2011 collapse & the firing of manager Terry Francona. He chose to wear the #25, in honor of the late Tony Conigliaro whom he roomed with in 1976 while with the San Diego Padres.

Valentines days in Boston did not turn out too well. The club finished 69-93 the teams worst record in 47 years. The Sox suffered injuries, in house & public fighting with players as well as his coaches.

Honors: Bobby was inducted to the Italian American Hall of Fame in Chicago in 2003. He has won multiple humanitarian & good guy awards, as well as honors for charitable works including the golden key to New York City after 911.

Valentine is the Stamford Director of Public Safety. In 2013 he was named athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.

He also serves on the Board of the following charitable organizations: The Mickey Lione, Jr. Fund for Scholastic Excellence, The Frisbee Foundation, The Western CT Chapter of Multiple Sclerosis, and Honorary Chairman for Swim across the Sound, and the Tully Health Center, Stamford, CT. 

Restaurant: Outside of his coaching job, Valentine also owns Bobby V's, a decades-old sports bar with locations in Stamford, (where he still keeps his residence when not managing) in Japan and in Arlington, Texas. While he was manager of the Mets there was a location across from Shea Stadium in the Ramada Hotel.

The place was loaded with memorabilia on the walls and tables laminated with old baseball cards. He claims to have invented the wrap sandwich. He claims that his restaurant was the first anywhere to serve a sandwich in a tortilla wrap. Valentine made this claim while his restaurant was showcased on Food Network.

Since 2003, Valentine has held an annual "Bobby Valentine Celebrity Wine & Food Experience", a charity fundraising event featuring food from lower Fairfield County, Connecticut restaurants and a selection of wines. Valentine acts as the master of ceremonies and celebrities and sports personalities appear at the event.

Bobby’s sports academy is located in Stamford, Connecticut and is one of the premier sports training facilities in the North East. Bobby designs all the drills that are taught for children of all ages. 

Family: Valentine's father-in-law is former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, An excellent pitcher who became infamous for giving up the classic pennant-winning home run to Bobby Thomson in 1951.

Trivia: Bobby Valentine is so popular in Japan that a beer and a hamburger have been named for him there. Bobby is a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

SNY: At the end of Spring Training 2013 the Mets announced Bobby V. will join the studio team at SNY. He continues in that part time role in to his third season.

Bobby V was a popular SNY analyst during the Mets 2015 post season run getting to their first World Series since Valentines team did it in 2000. He returns in 2016 popping in from time to time as a studio analyst.

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