By David Fong
ATLANTA, Ga. — Growing up, Tim Valentine admits he didn’t truly appreciate his father’s athletic prowess.
“To be honest with you, I just thought everybody’s daddy played baseball,” said Valentine, the son of former Troy High School and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Harold “Corky” Valentine. “One of my closest friends was a sports freak — he was just really into it — and he was amazed my daddy was a baseball player. I wish I had been a little more into it.
“My daddy stopped playing baseball in 1960 and I was born in 1963, so all of that was mostly over by the time I was a kid. I remember better as a policeman. To me, that’s what he was. He was a policeman, and he was a good one. I really think that was his true calling.”
Before he went into law enforcement, however, the elder Valentine — who passed away on Jan. 21, 2005 — was one of the most decorated athletes in Troy High School history. He earned nine varsity letters during his career at Troy — three each in football, basketball and baseball.
Following his graduation from Troy, he was immediately signed to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched two years for the Reds, then spent several years in the minor leagues after arm troubles derailed his professional career.
This weekend, Valentine will be posthumously inducted into the Trojan Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2016. This year’s class will be honored prior to the Troy football team’s Friday home opener against Trotwood-Madison, then again at a Saturday banquet to take place at the Crystal Room in Troy.
He’ll be joined in this year’s class by Kees Scarff (class of 1963, football, baseball and basketball), Mark Elliott (class of 1968, baseball), Holly Rhoades Saylor (class of 1987, soccer, basketball and softball) and Julia Reel Niles (class of 1992, basketball).
“I’m pretty excited,” his son said. “It’s crazy when you go through his scrapbook. You get done reading it and you are like, ‘Wow!’ It’s pretty impressive.”
Indeed, Valentine — a 1948 Troy graduate — is as decorated an athlete as Troy has ever had. He was was a quarterback and defensive back on the Troy football team — “I don’t know if this is a fact, but I always heard he had football scholarship offers from Notre Dame and Florida State,” Tim Valentine said — and a star basketball player as well.
It was on the baseball diamond as a pitcher where Valentine found his greatest success, however. His junior year, Valentine went 9-2, leading the Trojans to the district championship game. In that district title game, which Troy lost 4-3, he pitched 10 innings, giving up no earned runs and striking out 16.
As a senior, he went 11-1 with 110 strikeouts in 80 innings pitcher. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds right out of high school.
In 1954, Valentine made his Major League Baseball debut with the Reds. That season, he appeared in 36 games with 28 starts. He went 12-11 with a 4.45 earned run average, striking out 73 in 194.1 innings pitched.
Arm problems would derail much of the 1955 season for Valentine. That year, he pitched in just 10 games with five starts. He went 2-1 with a 7.43 earned run average.
“He had a lot of arm problems,” Tim Valentine said. “Back then, they used to treat pitchers like rented mules.
That would be Valentine’s last season in the big leagues. He would continue to play professionally from 1956-59 with the Atlanta Crackers and the Havana Sugar Kings in Cuba. Tim Valentine said his father had a picture taken with Cuban leader Fidel Castro while playing for the Sugar Kings.
Following his baseball career, Valentine would go into law enforcement, something he would do for the next 32 years. His son said he is now starting to realize just how good a player his father was.
“Hank Aaron talks about daddy on page 92 of his book,” Tim Valentine said. “He said daddy was the meanest pitcher he ever faced. He said daddy was just a nasty, ornery pitcher.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong