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Robert John Valentine (born May 13, in Stamford, Connecticutmarker) is a former Major League Baseball player and manager. He is currently an analyst for ESPN.

Early years

Valentine is considered to be among the best high school athletes in Connecticut history. He was widely recruited out of Rippowam High School in Stamford by the likes of the University of Nebraska, Duke Universitymarker, the University of Notre Damemarker and the University of Southern Californiamarker as a star in football and baseball. He attended USC where he became a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity and Arizona State Universitymarker. The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him number five overall in the 1968 Major League Baseball Draft.

Playing career

Minor league MVP

After winning the Pioneer League's MVP award with the Ogden Dodgers in , Valentine debuted with the Dodgers as a September call-up in at only 19 years old. Though he never recorded a major league at-bat that season, he did score three runs as a pinch runner.

Back in the Pacific Coast League for , Valentine was again his league's MVP after batting .340 with fourteen home runs for the Spokane Indians. Led by Valentine and manager Tommy Lasorda, Spokane won the league championship over a legendary Hawaii Islanders powerhouse.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Valentine made the Dodgers out of Spring training in , and batted .249 with one home run and 25 runs batted in. The following season, he managed to play in 119 games by playing many different positions—including shortstop, second base, third and all three outfield positions. His batting average improved to .274 in , but he was not showing his early promise as a major leaguer, and following the season, he was packaged in a trade along with Frank Robinson, Billy Grabarkewitz, Bill Singer and Mike Strahler to the California Angels for Andy Messersmith and Ken McMullen.

California Angels

Valentine batted .302 his first season with the Angels before falling victim to a gruesome injury. On May 17, , Valentine suffered a multiple compound leg fracture at Anaheim Stadiummarker when his spikes got caught in the outfield's chain link fence while attempting to catch a home run ball hit by Dick Green. Valentine missed the remainder of the 1973 season and the leg never healed properly, robbing Valentine of his speed. In , Valentine made 414 plate appearances in the utility role, the second most of his career, and batted .261 with three home runs. At the end of the season, he was traded to the San Diego Padres.

"Saturday Night Massacre"

Valentine only appeared in 66 games for the Padres when he was part of New Yorkmarker's infamous "Saturday Night Massacre." On June 15, , the New York Mets traded Dave Kingman to the San Diego Padres for minor league pitcher Paul Siebert and Valentine, sent Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman, and Mike Phillips to the St. Louis Cardinals for Joel Youngblood.

Seattle Mariners

Valentine's role with the Mets became even more limited, and he was released in Spring training, . He signed with the Seattle Mariners shortly afterwards, and made his debut as a catcher that season. Following the season, he retired from baseball at only 29 years old.

Games AB Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO Avg.
639 1698 176 441 59 9 12 157 27 20 140 134 .260


Managerial career

Texas Rangers

Valentine was serving as third base coach for the Mets when he was tapped by the Texas Rangers to take over managing duties from Doug Rader 32 games into the season. He was not able to turn the team's fortunes around right away and the Rangers went 53-76 the rest of the way, finishing with an overall record of 62-99. The following season the Rangers finished second in the American League West with a record of 87-75. Valentine also finished second for AL Manager of the Year that year. Hopes were high in Arlington after the 1986 season, but his Rangers fell back into sixth place the following two seasons. Unable to replicate his early success, Valentine was fired halfway through the 1992 season with a record of 45-41. Toby Harrah grabbed the reigns from Valentine, and led the Rangers to a 32-44 record and a fourth place finish.

Chiba Lotte Marines

In , Valentine began his first stint as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines in the Japanese Pacific League. That season, the team surprised most Japanese baseball fans by finishing in second place (69-58-3), a remarkable feat for the Marines who had not won the Japanese Pacific league pennant since 1974. However, he was fired abruptly due to the personal conflict with general manager Tatsuro Hirooka, despite having a two-year contract.

New York Mets

He returned to the U.S. and managed the Mets' Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides to an 82-59 record. He was promoted to manager of the New York Mets with 31 games left in the season, and led them to a 12-19 record the rest of the way.

Over the next two seasons, with Valentine at the helm, the Mets began a resurgence, finishing 14 games over .500 (88-74) both years. Valentine's most memorable game as a manager occurred on June 9, . In the 12th inning of a 14 inning marathon with the Toronto Blue Jays, Mike Piazza is called for catcher's interference on Craig Grebeck. Valentine is ejected by home plate umpire Randy Marsh for arguing the call, and returns to the dugout an inning later in a disguise. Unamused, Major League Baseball fined Valentine $10,000 and suspended him for three games. The Mets went on to win the game 4-3.

Valentine led the Mets to a record of 97-66 and a wild card playoff berth that season. The Mets beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in four games (3-1) en route to the National League Championship Series, where they eventually lost to their division rival the Atlanta Braves in six games (4-2).

In early 2000, Valentine was at the center of what would be called "The Whartongate Affair," in which he allegedly mentioned to students at the University of Pennsylvania'smarker Wharton School of Business somewhat cynical, insider comments regarding a handful of Mets players and the organization as a whole.

The Mets returned the following season, finishing the year with a 94-68 record and another wild card playoff berth. This time, the Mets would not be denied the pennant, winning the National League by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in five games (4-1). The jubilation for the Mets would end during the World Series as they were beaten by their crosstown rival New York Yankees in five games (4-1). Valentine had an uneasy, if not volatile relationship with general manager Steve Phillips, who eventually fired him after the season.

Back to Japan

In , Valentine began his second stint as manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines. On October 17, , he led the Marines to the Pacific League pennant after thirty-one years in a close playoff with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. Nine days later on October 26, the Marines won the Japan Series in a four game sweep of the Hanshin Tigers for the first time since 1974. On October 27, 2005, Valentine issued a challenge to the World Series champion Chicago White Sox on behalf of the Chiba Lotte Marines. Valentine called for a seven-game World Series to be played between the American and Japanese championship teams. Unlike the World Baseball Classic, a competition featuring sixteen national all-star teams, a World Series-styled tournament between the winners of both the American and Japanese championships has never been played.

Following their Japan Series championship, the Marines won the inaugural Asia Series by defeating the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization in November 2005. In 2008, Valentine was the subject of the ESPN Films documentary "The Zen of Bobby V." The film followed Valentine and his 2007 Chiba Lotte Marines team. "The Zen of Bobby V." was an official selection at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. The Marines decided to let Valentine go after the 2009 season.

Return to America

Valentine accepted a position as a baseball analyst for ESPN, who previously appeared on the cable network's Baseball Tonight in 2003. He made his broadcasting debut for the 2009 American and National League Championship Series and World Series.

Statistics



Team Year Regular Season Postseason
Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
Texas Rangers 1985 53 76 .411 7th in AL West - - -
1986 87 75 .537 2nd in AL West - - -
1987 75 87 .463 6th in AL West - - -
1988 70 91 .435 6th in AL West - - -
1989 83 79 .512 4th in AL West - - -
1990 83 79 .512 3rd in AL West - - -
1991 85 77 .525 3rd in AL West - - -
1992 45 41 .523 4th in AL West - - -
TEX Total 581 605 .490
New York Mets 1996 12 19 .387 4th in NL East - - -
1997 88 74 .543 3rd in NL East - - -
1998 88 74 .543 2nd in NL East - - -
1999 97 66 .595 2nd in NL East 5 5 .500 lost in NLCS to ATL
2000 94 68 .580 2nd in NL East 7 6 .538 lost in World Series to NYY
2001 82 80 .506 3rd in NL East - - -
2002 75 86 .466 5th in NL East - - -
NYM Total 536 467 .534
Totals 1,117 1,072 .510


Outside of baseball

Since 1980, Valentine has owned and operated Bobby Valentine's Sports Gallery Cafe, a sports bar located in his hometown of Stamford. 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 the 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, Connecticutmarker restaurants and a selection of wines. Valentine acts as the master of ceremonies and celebrities and sports personalities appear at the event. The January 2008 event, to benefit the Mickey Lione Jr. Fund, included both live and silent auctions and cost $150 to attend, with ticket sales limited to 750.

Valentine is married to the daughter of former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, who gave up the famous "Shot Heard 'Round the World" home run to Bobby Thomson in 1951.

Valentine is a member of the Delta Chi fraternity.

References

  1. The Whartongate Affair
  2. Advertisement "Sixth Annual Bobby Valentine Celebrity Wine & Food Experience", Weekend section, The Stamford Advocate, Stamford, Connecticut, page 8, December 6, 2007
  3. Cavanaugh, John (17 July 1977), "A Homecoming for Valentine." New York Times. Sunday edition, Long Island Opinion: 355. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F10F16FA3B5815768FDDAE0994DF405B878BF1D3


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