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 in Stamford. 

Trivia: Valentine is considered to be one of the best high school athletes in the sports history in the state of Connecticut.

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.

Valentine hit .340 with 14 HRs & 80 RBIs helping the Spokane Indians to the league championship. 

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.

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. On June 13th, he hit his first career HR, coming off the Expos (former Met) Steve Renko. Valentine would drive in four runs in that game, a career best. He drove in two more runs the next day & a total of eight that week.

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.
 
On May 31st, he hit a twi run HR leading the Dodgers to a 5-3 win at San Francisco. In the start of July he drove I three runs in five games he played in. On July 19th, he drove in two runs against the Mets as Claude Osteen shut out Tom Seaver & the Mets 5-0.

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: Valentine was thrilled to be playing back in the tri-state area near his Connecticut home. Unfortunately, the Mets were in last place & he was struggling at the plate. 

On June 17th, Bobby Valentine debuted as a Mets player pinch hitting for Pat Zachry, drawing a walk in a 7-1 loss to the Astros at Shea Stadium.

On June 29th, Valentine collected three hits, including a solo HR off the Phillies Jim Lonborg, helping the Mets in a 5-3 win over the Phillies at Shea Stadium. It was his second & only other HR of the year.

Valentine would play eleven games in August & just one game in September as injuries limited his playing time.

Valentine only hit .133 in 42 games for the last place Mets going 11-83 with one HR & three RBIs. 

Defensively Bobby V. was the Mets ultimate utility player, playing every infield position in his Mets career. He would play 45 games at second, 15 at first base, 14 at short stop & 13 at third base. 

1978 Season: On April 18th, in a tied game at St. Louis, Valentine doubled off Eric Rasmussen with the bases loaded bringing home Lee Mazzilli & Willie Montanez with what were to be the winning runs in a 3-2 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis. 

Multi-HR Games: He closed out April with two consecutive multi-RBI games driving in two runs each time.

On May 4th, Valentine hit his only HR of the season, a three-run shot off the Braves Phil Niekro, in Atlanta helping the Mets beat the Braves 8-2. 

On May 11th in Montreal, Valentine tied the game as he grounded out allowing Willie Montanez to score from third. Later in the top of the 8th, his RBI base scored Steve Henderson with the games winning run in a 3-2 victory over the Expos. Valentine missed some action in July & returned after the All-Star break.

In his last ten games of the season, from August 23rd to September 29th he had five multi-hit games & drove in four runs.

On the 1978 season he raised his batting average 136 points from the past year, to a respectable .269 in 160 at bats. He had 43 hits, seven doubles, one HR and 18 RBIs with a .346 on base % & .677 OPS.

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:
Bobby was 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 throughout his playing & managing career.

1979: The Mets released Bobby V. at the end of Spring Training. Two weeks later, he ended up signing on with the Seattle Mariners. 

In Seattle Valentine played in 62 games batting .276 with six doubles, seven RBIs, 22 walks, a .405 on base % & .742 OPS for the sixth place 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 & 176 runs scored. Bobby struck out 134 times with 140 walks a .315 on base percentage & .641 OPS. 

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. 

Mets Career: 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 %.

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