Card: 2004 Grandstand Arkansas Travelers #NA
Position: Umpire/MiLB Team VP
William Terry Valentine, Jr. (b. November 21, 1932 in Little Rock, AR– d. April 26, 2015 in Little Rock, AR) was a professional baseball umpire who worked in the American League from 1963 to 1968. Valentine was an umpire in the 1965 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. In his career, he umpired 947 Major League games.
Valentine grew up a short distance from Travelers Field, the home stadium of the Arkansas Travelers minor league team. Valentine worked odd jobs at the stadium, including sorting soft drink bottles before games, retrieving seat cushions after games, and shagging foul balls and returning them during games.
Valentine began umpiring in amateur and semi-pro games as a teenager. In 1951 he attended Bill McGowan's umpiring school in West Palm Beach, Florida. He received an offer to umpire in the Class D Ohio–Indiana League, and became the youngest professional umpire in baseball history, at the age of 18. Bill spent several years in the lower minors, but was promoted to the Double-A Texas League in 1954. After seven seasons in the Texas League, Valentine was promoted to the Pacific Coast League in 1960, and was hired to the American League staff two seasons later in 1963.
Valentine spent six years as an AL umpire, and was chosen as an umpire for the 1965 All-Star Game at Metropolitan Stadium. A few days after the All-Star game, in the same ballpark, Bill got into an argument with Minnesota Twins manager Sam Mele, in which Mele appeared to throw a punch at Valentine. Mele was suspended five games for his actions. He was also the home plate umpire when Tony Conigliaro was hit by a pitched ball at Fenway Park on August 18, 1967.
Bill was one of the few umpires to eject Mickey Mantle from a game, and also the first umpire to eject Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver. Weaver was ejected from at least 91 games in his career – an American League record
On September 16, 1968, he received a call from American League president Joe Cronin, informing Valentine that he and fellow umpire Al Salerno were being fired, effective immediately. Cronin told him and the press that he was fired for being a poor umpire. However, Valentine and Salerno had in fact been working to form a union of American League umpires, who were receiving a lower salary than the National League umpires, who were unionized.
After the 1968 season, Valentine and Salerno filed a $4 million lawsuit against the American League and Major League Baseball, alleging federal antitrust violations and defamation of character. In addition, the newly formed Major League Umpires Association filed an unfair-labor-practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board. However, Valentine and Salerno lost both cases. In 1970, as a settlement, the American League offered the umpires full reinstatement, back pay, and $20,000 in salary, but Salerno refused the deal because of a provision that stated that the umpires would have to spend time in the minor leagues to improve their skills.
Salerno's refusal of the settlement ended his and Valentine's careers, and Valentine returned to Little Rock. He worked as a referee for basketball games. He was for a time the executive director of the Arkansas Republican Party, a position originally held from 1970 to 1973 by Neal Sox Johnson. He worked as an announcer for the Arkansas Travelers for eight years.
In 1976, he became general manager of the Travelers. In his first season as general manager, the team saw a 34 percent increase in attendance, due in part to Valentine's stunts including giving away tens of thousands of tickets to kids, hoping they would bring their parents to the game with them, and holding midget wrestling and amateur boxing at the stadium.
The Travelers' attendance continued to increase over the years, and also saw on-field success, winning five league titles while Bill was GM. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Officials Association Hall of Fame, the Texas League Hall of Fame, and the North Little Rock Boys Club Hall of Fame.
Valentine stepped down as general manager in 2007 after thirty-one years. He remained executive vice president for two more seasons before retiring in March 2009. He died on April 26, 2015, in Little Rock, Arkansas.
This player is not associated with any Baseball Amore Tours.
See Bill’s baseball cards at TCDB
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