"I thought I still could play," he says. "After the next season Tommy was managing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. I went and played about 50 games for him. He took me to dinner. He told me I was done. I played five more years [mostly with the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets], but that was when I realized I was done. He didn't lie to me."
At 29, Valentine retired. He began a restaurant and bar business in Stamford that since has grown to six restaurants in three states, but still he was looking for a chance to come back to baseball. The gift. He coached in the minors for three years, then went back up to the Mets as a third base coach for two years. Grieve hired him from the coaching box to take control of the woeful Rangers.
"I'd roomed with him with the Mets," Grieve says. "I guess we sat on the bench a lot together, too. His passion in life was baseball. His goal was to be a big league manager. He was the only guy on the team who never missed a pitch. When I became a general manager and needed a manager, I remembered."
The years as the manager of the Rangers have not been easy. There have been feuds with umpires, feuds with players from other teams. The passion of Valentine has stirred the passions of others.
"Bobby is not one of those people, you hear his name and just yawn and say, 'He's all right,' " Grieve says. "You either like him or you hate him. People see him with the long hair, cocky, yelling out of the dugout and say, 'What a jerk.' What they're watching is youthful exuberance, but they don't know that. They don't know him."
"I've experienced the wrath, and when he's focused on you, it can be pretty hard," says pitching coach Tom House. "At the same time he's extremely loyal, he's capable of incredible acts of kindness, he's extremely bright. He's the epitome of what a major league manager should be."
Decisions turn into soap operas when passion is involved. The release of outfielder Pete Incaviglia, once Valentine's favorite player, on March 29, 1991, has become a back-and-forth tussle of words. For motivation Incaviglia has a Valentine baseball card stuck on his locker with the Houston Astros. Valentine says Incaviglia forgets the nice things that were done for him. The release last fall of coach Davey Lopes has brought more harsh words. The release of Bill Zeigler, the team trainer, just before Christmas brought more. These are just the feuds with people who have been with the Rangers. What about the rest?
"I can understand why some people don't like me," Valentine says. "I think I'm misunderstood sometimes, but I understand the other times. I'm loud. I say things. I do more things than a lot of managers do, so that means there are more things that people can decide not to like."
He signs autographs at Arlington Stadium, unusual for a manager. He thinks it is positive, reaching out to the fans. It drives other managers to distraction. What is he? A hot dog? He understands the thinking. He still feels it's important.
He talks about his tendency to yell things from the dugout. He does not yell nice things at the other team. He does not yell nice things at umpires. This can cause problems. He talks about the simple act of smiling. Smiling gets him in trouble.