May 16, 2021

Remembering The Tragic Injury That Ruined Bobby Valentines Playing Career (1973)

Bobby Valentine was drafted as a first round pick out of Stamford high school in his native, Connecticut back in 1968.

At the age of 18 Valentine was named the MVP of the Pioneer League. He played under Tommy Lasorda & not only was Lasorda a mentor to Valentine, but the two became life long friends.

He was brought up to the big leagues briefly for five games in 1969 & then continued to develop over two more seasons. At the age 20 he was playing at the Lo Angeles Dodgers AAA Spokane club batting .340 with 14 HRs 39 doubles 16 triples & 29 stolen bases.

Valentine was rushed up & with the Dodgers for the 1971 season batting .249 with just one HR in 101 games. The next year the power & speed still didn't come as it had been in the minors, but the young player raised his average to .274.

That winter the Dodgers & the cross town California Angels made a blockbuster trade, Valentine was part of the deal that sent him, Frank Robinson, Bill Singer & Billy Grabarkewitz to the Angels for Andy Messersmith, & Ken McMullen. Within two years Messersmith became one of the NL's top pitchers & helped bring the Dodgers to the World Series.

In Anaheim, Valentine switched to playing short stop from being mostly an outfielder. The change of leagues did him good, he was batting over .300 & his future was bright once again.

On Thursday night May 17th, 1973 the Angels hosted that years World Champion Oakland A's in front of 11.481 fans at Anaheim Stadium. The Angels Rudy May went up against the A's Catfish Hunter. Catfish would shut out the Angels 4-0 on a five hitter.

In the top of the 2nd, Reggie Jackson tripled for Oakland & Ray Fosse later walked. Second baseman Dick Green came to bat & blasted a shot to deep center field, Valentine ran to the fence jumped up in attempt to snag the ball. He missed it by less than an inch & it went over for a HR.

For Valentine it was much worse, his leg got caught up between two posts in the fence and tangled as he fell down to the ground. He was carried off the field in intense pain & suffered multiple leg fractures. It was one of the worst baseball injuries of the year & a memorable one all time.

He spent the rest of the year in two different casts but the bones in his ankle did not heal right. Instead of another surgery he decided to play in 1974. Although he did play in 117 games, he batted .261 & was never the same player again.

His potential All Star career combined of speed & power, while being versatile playing most positions on the field were over. He became a back utility player, playing for five teams overall (including the Mets in 1977 & 1978) through 1979.

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