Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Fred Valentine, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #466
Fred Valentine was signed by the Orioles way back in 1956 out of Tennessee State University, which also produced fellow O's Sam Bowens and Nate Snell. He had been the college's starting quarterback as well. Fred had a September cup of coffee with the big league team in 1959, collecting 6 singles and 3 walks in 22 trips to the plate (.316 AVG, .409 OBP). His first big-league hit came off of All-Star pitcher Billy Pierce of the White Sox on September 11. However, he found himself trapped by a glass ceiling for the next few years, not returning from AAA to Baltimore until the middle of the 1963 campaign. That year, he saw action in 26 games and hit .268 with a .388 on-base percentage and no power. Nearing age 30, he didn't seem to have a place with the Orioles.
In October 1963, the Senators purchased his contract. He spent parts of the next five years in Washington, including back-to-back seasons as an everyday player in 1966 and 1967. 1966 was his career year; he had a team-high 131 OPS+ and 22 stolen bases and batted .276/.351/.455. His 16 home runs and 59 RBI trailed only Frank Howard for the team lead. The O's reacquired him in exchange for pitcher Bruce Howard on June 15, 1968 and Valentine played his last 47 big-league games in orange and black, batting just .187 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI. He did provide the margin of victory in a July 7 game against the Yankees, hitting a tiebreaking home run off of Stan Bahnsen in the top of the ninth. It was his last major league homer; he played back at AAA Rochester in 1969 and put in a season in Japan before retiring. In parts of 7 MLB seasons, Fred hit .247 with a .330 OBP, 36 home runs, and 138 RBI. Today, the 77-year-old is the vice president and secretary of the MLB Players' Alumni Association.