Day 4 of 2022 baseball books: Break a leg — that fresh, highfalutin, always finagling, funny Valentine

“Valentine’s Way: My Adventurous Life and Times”

The author:
Bobby Valentine
With Peter Golenbock

The publishing info:
Permuted Press
376 pages
$30
Released November, 30, 2021

The links:
The publishers website
The distributors website
At Bookshop.org
At Indiebound.org
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At TheLastBookStoreLA
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com

The review in 90 feet or less

That white-haired, googly eyed meatball with the Howdy-Doody smile waltzing around on the Angels’ TV pre- and post-game shows these days?

Oh, it’s just Bobby Valentine. Keeping the audience awake. Being Bobby V.

About to turn 72 next month, Valentine reconnected to the franchise that basically allow his right leg to become disconnected and ruin much of his playing career potential has a somewhat odd feeling.

Or maybe it’s a calculated move on his part.

Maybe we missed it, but at some point already this season, he may have already told the story about the time in May of ’73, playing out of position in center field for the Angels, cutting across the outfield to chase down a long fly ball hit by Oakland’s Dick Green …

If you look at the Retrosheet.org box score and game description, it is handled this way:

ATHLETICS 2ND: Jackson tripled to right; Johnson struck out; Bando was called out on strikes; Fosse walked; Green homered [Jackson scored, Fosse scored]; BERRY REPLACED VALENTINE (PLAYING CF); North grounded out (third to first); Bobby Valentine left with unknown injury; 3 R, 2 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Athletics 3, Angels 0.

Bobby Valentine’s 1972 Topps card was taken of him playing for the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. They painted red socks and red trim on his pants to make him look like a California Angel.

Hang in, it’s here in full detail of this autobio, starting on page 75, after he’s already poured out his angst about being traded away from Tommy Lasorda and the Dodgers in the winter of 1972, across the way to Orange County, in that package with Frank Robinson, Bill Singer and Bill Grabarkewitz so the Dodgers could have Andy Messersmith (and Valentine could finally get away from mean ol’ Walt Alston). The No. 5 overall pick in the June ’68 draft, one spot behind the Yankees’ Thurman Munson, ahead of Dodgers picks Bill Buckner (2nd round), Tom Paciorek (5th round), Joe Ferguson (8th round) and Doyle Alexander (9th round), later adding Steve Garvey and Ron Cey in the secondary phase, had such up-side and charisma, sideburns and all.

Now he’s doing Angels manager Bobby Winkles a favor, giving Ken Berry and Mickey Rivers a day off, two days after Nolan Ryan had thrown a no-hitter in Kansas City and benefited from Valentine’s play in center field.

As Valentine, who just turned 23 days earlier, describes tracking down Green’s fly ball, he’s moving from shallow right-center to deep left-center. Anaheim Stadium for some reason didn’t have a real wall to mark the playing field boundary.

I leapt to climb the fence to catch the ball. A green plastic tarp was stretched across the chain-linked fence at the Big A, and though I have never watched video of what happened, apparently my spike lodged into the canvas. Instead of my foot sliding down the canvas and my body taking the force of the collision, my leg and foot took the force of the collision and halfway between my leg and my foot, my tibia and fibula snapped. It felt as if the upper and lower parts of my leg were not connected. Vada Pinson, who was playing left field, came over to see if I was okay. ‘I broke my leg,’ I said. ‘Shoot me.’

From there, it’s a detailed explanation and something of an indictment about how the leg didn’t heal correctly. The Angels’ orthopedic surgeon at the time, Dr. Donald Ball (his family name is why the street near the stadium is called Ball Road) thought he could mend the tibia without surgery. Valentine said he turned down an offer from Dr. Robert Kerlan (no longer with the Angels) to handle the case.

It didn’t work well. His leg atrophied. The doctor said the bump inside his leg as “just calcification.”

The back of Valentine’s 1975 Topps card explains his 1973 abbreviated season, but also shows he came back in ’74 as a lef fielder.

“He wasn’t giving me all the information,” Valentine writes. “The protrusion of calcium on the front of my shin made my leg look abnormal. It was disgusting.”

A new fiberglass cast caused more pain, and bleeding, but Dr. Ball was on vacation and couldn’t see him for two weeks. In the meantime, Valentine got into a locker room wrestling match, cast and all, with Frank Robinson, who Valentine had targeted as one of the team dissenters against manager Winkles – perhaps aiming for his job.

Valentine came back to play, as his baseball cards with the Angels, Padres, Mariners and Mets show (even playing a couple game as a catcher in Seattle for the heck of it), but having to quit at age 30 left some unfinished business.

(In a 2007 New York Times magazine story Q&A with Tyler Kempner, Valentine says: “I think I would have had a long career. I would have made the All-Star team a few times. …  I would have been controversial. If I had been a star of a team in the mid-’70s, I probably would have done and said some really crazy things – probably really crazy, because I was always the biggest mouth and craziest guy on all those teams.”)

What you think you know about Valentine is what might be true, but now hearing all of it – managing the Mets, Rangers and Red Sox for 16 years, going to Japan to be raised in exultation, a college AD, inventing the wrap sandwich, running a sports academy and a restaurant, and getting involved in local city politics (and his ties to heavy Republican donors) – and filtering it through his frame of mind make it all worth retracing the journey.

He will always make for strong media content. He knows the buttons to push.

Page after page recounting the times his mouth rubbed teammates and opponents the wrong way are as much cringe worthy as they are entertaining. If Bill Walton caught us anything about remaking yourself in the media, Valentine may have picked up some pointers.

It may also not be an accident that a publishing company that touts itself as one that has pushed out “hundreds of works as an industry-leading independent publisher of sci-fi, fantasy, post-apocalyptic and horror fiction, as well as pop-culture and historical non-fiction” has taken this one. The official list of genres on their website also include coloring books, military non-fiction, supernatural, paranormal romance, zombie, thriller, humor, reference books and dystopian.

Valentine’s tome surely permeates many permutations as well as checks a lot of boxes for them.

“Why didn’t I listen to my mom when she told me to keep my mouth shut?” he asks himself before describing a time he got into an on-field fight with former teammate Clyde Wright – who these days is part of the Angels’ alumni team and must be delighted to watch games on TV when Valentine pops up.

For that, it will not come as any surprise if, during this first season on the Angels’ Bally Sports pre- and post-game show, something he says will cause a kerfuffle. And gain attention. And keep the Bobby V name back in circulation.

Or: Where have you gone, Don Cherry? There’s someone channeling your stuff.

How it goes in the scorebook

Goofball putout, 8 Unassisted. No injuries. Just some bruises of the ego.

We’ve got our own biases when it comes to Valentine, the Dodger with the sideburns that made the greatest impression on us as a kid watching all the young players from that 1968 draft come to life on the field.

We finally had a chance to sit down with him for breakfast one day when he was in L.A. getting ready to debut as the ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” analyst in 2011, in the same booth with Orel Hershiser and Dan Shulman. We sheepishly asked him to sign a ball for us. “Best of life,” that’s pretty clever.

He even rolled up his pant leg to show us the crooked right leg he still has to deal with.

Next day, saw him outside Dodger Stadium as the Sunday night crew was getting ready on the set. Introduced him to my wife. He planted a huge kiss on her. She really had no idea who he was.

Uh, OK …

Valentine detractors will plow over all the years he displayed what they taken in as his arrogance, conceited nature. It is evident all over the book as further evidence to keep them convinced. His most impactful time on the game came between the age of 30-70, which included a run on ESPN that gave him media exposure and a stage to pontificate.

We’ve come to accept and admire – to a point – his unfiltered approach to tackling the truth and even ballroom dancing around it a bit for flair and to make a point that’s true to his remembering.

It came to light in a dozen pages early on, we decided to pause and do some digging when we read things that sounded just too incredible. Such as:

Page 42: He describes his move to L.A. after the Dodgers drafted him and his desire to go to USC at the same time. It’s late in the 1969 season, and he says he “got to suit up for nine home games in September.” He details his first major league appearance was as a pinch-runner in a game against the New York Mets, with Jerry Koosman pitching. Third base coach Danny Ozark told him to steal. He didn’t. The next batter up lined out to shortstop. Nothing special.
A check of Retrosheet.org: His debut was on Sept. 2, ’69, as a pinch runner for Jim Lefebvre in the bottom of the ninth, against the Mets. Gary Gentry was the starter, but he had just been relieved by Ron Taylor. Valentine went to second on Maury Wills’ single, then scored on Andy Kosco’s single to bring the Dodgers to within a run, 5-4. Willie Davis then struck out to end the game against Tug McGraw. One day earlier, Koosman started the game against the Dodgers but was knocked out after one-third of an inning – five batters faced, four earned runs. On Sept. 3, Koosman came back to start again against the Dodgers – six innings, four runs, nine hits, 28 batters. Valentine wasn’t in either of those Sept. 1 or 3 games. While Valentine wasn’t up in any part of 1970 but came back to play a slate of games with the Dodgers in ’71 and ’72, he faced the Mets and Koosman a couple times, but never in the situations he described.

Page 53: In a 1971 game at New York on June 14, “I got the game-winning hit off Tom Seaver.”
A check of Retrosheet.org: Valentine hit a fourth-inning double to drive in two and put the Dodgers up, 3-0. They ended up winning the game, 3-2. So technically …

On page 53: Valentine says he doubled off Nolan Ryan the next day and finished the series going 2-for-3 against Jerry Koosman.
A check of Retrosheet.org: Koosman pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief, giving up four hits to eight batters. Valentine’s single in the seventh was off Koosman, but his single in the second inning was off starter Charlie Williams.
(What is it about Valentine and Koosman that leads to some fuzzy facts?)

On page 53: To punctuate a point about how he was doing well but unappreciated, Valentine said he was in a stretch where he went 7 for 23 with three doubles, three RBIs and two runs scored. But after he went 0-for-3 against Bob Gibson, “I found myself back on the bench.”
A check of Retrosheet.org: He did go 0-for-3 against Gibson on June 21. The next night, he led off, played shortstop and was 1-for-5 against Steve Carlton. On June 22, he played the whole game in center field, batted fifth and went 0-for-3 vs. Jerry Reuss. On June 24, he came off the bench to play center field in the sixth inning. On June 25, he played the whole game against San Diego in right field and hit seventh (1-for-4). On June 26, he started game one of a doubleheader against San Diego, played right field the whole game (0-for-3), then pinch-hit in the second game with an 11th-inning single and came around to score on a bases-loaded walk to tie the game 3-3.  From June 29 to July 8, he started six of the eight games.

On page 54: Valentine describes being sent to Triple-A but he was called back to start a game at third base and face St. Louis’ Bob Gibson. “I hated third base,” Valentine wrote. “The good news is I got the game-winning hit off Gibson.”
A check of Retrosheet.org: The box score shows the Dodgers’ trailed 5-2 after four innings at St. Louis. Valentine’s eighth-inning single scored Von Joshua to give the Dodgers the go-ahead run and a 6-5 lead they hung onto. So again, technically …

Not to get buried in picking nits here, but with all the access to information these days, fact checking might do future ballplayers-turned-authors a favor. Ask the editors make sure what they remember is close enough to the truth, or else it may dilute their credibility.

Or, in this case, may also better explain another huge character flaw.

You can look it up: More to ponder

== Valentine enlightens the Brooklyn Eagle as to why he did a book: “He said he wasn’t doing much during COVID. ‘Peter (Golenbock) knew me, and knew my career,’ he said. ‘I picked up the phone and away we went.'”

== A review by Ron Kaplan as posted on TheBookReporter.com: “A theme of his memoir … He does things his way. If you agree, you’re his friend for life. If you don’t, change ‘friend’ to ‘foe.'” … You may agree or disagree with Valentine’s version of how his life progressed. As one might expect, such hubris rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. They included fans, sports radio hosts and sportswriters who were out to get him, misrepresenting his comments, although a careful reading will show a degree of disingenuousness on his part. Add to this the aforementioned players, coaches, team executives and owners, and you get a sense of paranoia.”

== A March 3 appearance:

2 thoughts on “Day 4 of 2022 baseball books: Break a leg — that fresh, highfalutin, always finagling, funny Valentine”

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