Men's Journal

Life Advice from Bobby Valentine

 Rob Kim/Getty Images

What adventure most changed your life?

Living in the Dominican Republic when I was 21. I was the number one draft pick of the Dodgers in 1968, and they placed me in Santo Domingo to get some extra at-bats. It kept me from going to Vietnam, and it was a complete culture shock. It made me understand what it is to be a minority and that the whole world didn’t revolve around me. And also that mondongo — tripe stew — isn’t all that bad.

What one skill should every man have?

The willingness to change his mind. It’s the greatest right all men have, and it should be used.

Do you have a scar that tells a story?

I broke my leg running into a wall. Which basically ended my career. I was a shortstop who was asked to play center field for the Angels, and Dick Green, a second-baseman for the A’s, hit a home run that I thought I could catch regardless of the fact that it was over the fence. I ran as fast as I could into the wall, and the wall didn’t go down. It was the exact same break as Joe Theismann’s. The only difference is that in 1973, medicine was a little different, and I came out of the cast with a leg that had a 20-degree bend one way and an 18-degree bend the other.

Who is the toughest guy you know?

Tommy Lasorda. He was tough with his fists. I saw him in front of his house one day hit a kid who had been speeding by on a motorcycle. Knocked him across the hood of a car.

What advice would you give the younger you?

My mom always told me that I talk too much. So I’d tell the younger me: Listen a little more. But knowing me, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Lasorda was managing down in the Dominican winter league, where I’d played for him five years before, and I said, “Tommy, all these people don’t believe I can still play at the same level I did before I broke my leg. Why don’t you let me come down and play for you, and you can tell me what you think.” We had a deal. And at the end of the season we went out for pizza and he said, “OK, I’ll tell you. I think you should start thinking about coaching or managing.” And we both cried.

What role does vanity play in a man’s life?

Vanity is like steam from the shower. It just fogs up the mirror.

When is it OK for a man to wear a disguise?

Only for levity! That time I returned to the Mets dugout with a fake mustache and glasses after being thrown out, it was done in a moment when I felt a degree of panic setting in with my team and they needed to smile. If I knew then it was gonna cost me $5,000 and a two-game suspension, would I have done it? Probably, yes.

What’s the best way to motivate other men?

With a very private reprimand and a very public reward. 

What should every man experience before he dies?

Failure. And every man should experience being broke. I’ve been broke twice in my life, and it’s anything but the end.

What skill would you like to master?

I’m still young enough to master skiing the top of a mogul on the Highline out in Vail. I’ve put a lot of time into skiing, and I’d like to be able to clear the tops of them just once.

How should a man handle getting older?

Continue to look forward. When the past starts to concern you too much is when you’ve given in to old age.

This story first ran in the October 2011 issue.