Bobby Valentine's Playing Career (1969 - 1979)
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.
Valentine is considered to be one of the best high school athletes in the state of Connecticut's sports 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.
In 1978 with the Ogden Dodgers he played alongside Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner & was managed by Tommy Lasorda, who became his mentor & lifelong friend.
Valentine hit immediately, becoming the Pacific Coast League MVP in 1970, at AA Spokane a team managed by future Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda.
MLB Career: He get a September call up in 1969, making his big-league debut against the World Champion New York Mets.
On September 2nd, he came in as a pinch runner & scored a run on Andy Kosco's base hit in the 5-1 Mets win. Overall Valentine saw action in five games, with no official at bats but in pinch running roles he scored three runs.
He spent 1970 at AAA Spokane, where he hit .340 with 14 HRs 39 doubles 80 RBIs & 29 stolen bases in 146 games. Valentine was clearly ready for the big leagues by 1971.
1971: On April 7th, he was playing right field in the third game of the Dodgers season. On April 25th, in the first game of a twin bill at Cincinnati, he got his first career hit, it came off the Reds Milt Wilcox & scored Steve Garvey with his first RBI. Valentine played in the second game of that double header & recorded another hit.
Overall in the 1971 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. That year the Dodgers (89-73) finished just one game behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
1972: On May 15th, Valentine's RBI single scored Frank Robinson leading the Dodgers to a 2-1 win over the Padres in San Diego. On May 20th, he homered off the Astros Dave Roberts helping Al Downing to a 3-0 shut out over Houston at Dodger Stadium.
In September he drove in seven runs in a six-game stretch, this included three multi hit days, with a four-hit day on September 17th against Houston. Overall, for 1972, he raised his average to .274 with three HRs 32 RBIs & 107 hits in only 119 games. That year the Dodgers were 85-70 finishing ten games behind the mighty Big Red Machine.
Blockbuster Trade: 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.
1973 Topps Baseball Card: In classic Topps early 1970's air brush fashion, they erased his Dodgers uniform writing & colored in Angels colors around his waist & a stripe down the leg. In this scene he is clearly batting at Dodger Stadium (notice the lower scoreboard) in a game against the powder blue uniformed Phillies.
California Angels Career: With the Angels, Valentine converted from an infielder to an outfielder. In 1973 things started out great for Bobby V. in Anaheim as he was batting over .300 after 32 games into the season. He then suffered one of the worst injuries of the season as he ran into the wall at Anaheim Stadium at full speed chasing a HT ball.
On Thursday night May 17th, 1973, the Angels hosted that year's 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.
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 %.
San Diego Padres Career: On September 17th he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Gary Ross & player to be named later (Rudy Meoli). Valentine only played in 22 games from that point & all of the 1976 season due to injuries.
In 1977 Valentine got into 44 games with the Padres, 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 all happened on the Midnight Massacre the same night Tom Seaver was traded from the Mets.
Mets Playing Career: 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 had a big three hit day, helping the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Phillies at Shea Stadium.
Valentine only hit .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. He played 45 games at second, 15 at first base, 14 at short stop & 13 at third base.
1978 Season: 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 three run HR off Phil Neikro, in Atlanta helping the Mets beat the Braves 8-2.
On May 11th in Montreal, Valentine tied the game as he grounded out & Willie Montanez scored. Later in the top of the 8th, his base scored Steve Henderson & was the games winning run to beat the Expos 3-2. He missed some action in July & returned after the All Star break.
On the 1978 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. The Mets finished last at 66-96 under manager Joe Torre.
Trivia: A long-time bubble-gum fan, in the summer of 1978 Valentine won the Mets - Dodgers Bubble gum blowing contest. Bobby V. would be famous for blowing bubbles through out his playing & managing career.
The Mets released Bobby V. at the end of Spring Training 1979. He ended up finishing his playing career in Seattle playing in 62 games batting .276 with seven RBIs & six doubles for the '79 Mariners.
Career Stats: In his ten year playing career he hit .260 with 441 hits, 12 HRs 59 doubles 9 triples 140 walks 27 stolen bases 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.
In his brief Mets playing career, he played in 111 games over two seasons. He batted .222 with 54 hits with 2 HRs 8 doubles 25 runs scored 21 RBIs & a .295 on base %.