Just like so many others in the Washington,D.C. area, Fred Lee Valentine is excited about the World Series coming to town. ” I've been following them all year,” says Valentine of the Washington Nationals. ” It's a blessing that they have made it this far, when they weren't even thought of to make it to […]
Just like so many others in the Washington,D.C. area, Fred Lee Valentine is excited about the World Series coming to town.
” I've been following them all year,” says Valentine of the Washington Nationals. ” It's a blessing that they have made it this far, when they weren't even thought of to make it to the playoffs earlier this season. All of a sudden, (Washington) couldn't do no wrong. Good relief pitching made a big difference.”
Washington baseball is something Valentine knows a thing or two about.
During his seven seasons in the major leagues, Valentine logged parts of five of them with the then American League Washington Senators in the 1960's. With the District hosting its first World Series games since 1933, former big leaguers with ties to the region are watching with envy. However, those from Washington's baseball past are watching from afar.
” They (Nationals) haven't reached out”, according to Valentine, who 51 years ago played in his last MLB game with the Baltimore Orioles.
No offers of tickets to games at Nationals Park, no throwing out a ceremonial pitch, no acknowledgement of Washington's baseball past. Valentine, a switch hitter who threw right-handed and an outfielder by trade, is among the other former Senators forgotten by the current Washington baseball club. Ignoring the Senators appears to be an on-going theme for years.
” There have been conversations going on about having reunions with former Senators, but nothing so far. A lot of people ask in D.C. about having us all together. There's Frank Howard and Jim Hannan, they live in Virginia; they're close,” said Valentine during a telephone interview on Friday from his D.C. home – a 12 minute drive to Nationals Park.
However, Valentine harbors no ill will in not being in attendance for the Nationals' three home World Series games. There are many happy memories playing in front of crowds at RFK Stadium, where the Nationals played their first three seasons (2005-'07).
Valentine, who came up in the Baltimore Orioles' organization as a 24-year-old in 1959, and returned to the club during the 1963 season, had his contract purchased by Washington just after a season (1963) that saw them lose 106 games.
” Hodges (Senators' manager Gil Hodges) was the best manager that I played for in my career. You couldn't find a better person. You wanted to give him 110 percent each time you put on the uniform,” explains Valentine, who roomed on Washington road trips with Chuck Hinton during the 1964 season.
When pressed for a favorite memory while with the Senators, Valentine doesn't hesitate. Belting a grand slam in a game against the Los Angeles Angels, before the hometown RFK fans, on July 25, 1966.
” I always had good games against Los Angeles,” remembers Valentine, now 84, and married for more than 50 years to his wife Helena.
Playing for the Orioles and Senators, clubs located within 40 miles of each other, Valentine enjoyed living in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area so much that he has not left.
” At one time we thought about retiring to Florida. But, I met so many nice people locally, my wife and I stayed. This (D.C.) is a progressive area.”
In speaking of his former Senators' skipper, Valentine believes Hodges should be given more credit for the success of the organization's growth (1964-'67). Valentine tells of being involved with groups to promote Hodges' election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
” Washington has always deserved a (baseball) team. It's a good sports town,” proclaims Valentine.