The Mets may have found a scapegoat for their many woes when club owner Fred Wilpon fired manager Bobby Valentine this week.
As a result, however, Queens may have lost a hometown hero.
Valentine, a native of Stamford, Conn., led the Mets to the playoffs twice in the past four seasons, including a World Series appearance in 2000. He holds the second most victories, 536, for a Mets manager, behind Davey Johnsons franchise record of 595. Last year he served as the National Leagues skipper in the All Star Game.
But Valentine may have attained his greatest heights in Queens outside of Shea Stadium, where the Mets finished in last place for the first time since 1993.
A man noted for his generous spirit by local charities, Valentine regularly hosted benefits at his dining establishment in Corona, Bobby Vs Sports Bar and Restaurant, including fund-raisers to help support and promote organizations battling autism and mental health issues.
On a rainy Sunday in late April, shortly after the season began, Valentine participated in The Walk for Mental Health, an event that raised funds for Transitional Services for New York Inc., a Queens-based mental health non-profit agency. Three days earlier, he hosted a luncheon for the group at his restaurant before heading across the street to prepare for a game.
He promised us an hour for the walk, and he gave us an hour and a half in a monsoon. He promised us 20 minutes for the luncheon, and he gave us two hours. said Billy McDermott, TSIs director of development and public affairs.
It was unbelievable. The guy was so accessible. He went from table to table to table ... anything, anything, anything. He was incredibly supportive. He gave everything, plus more.
During the past six years, Valentine has served as co-emcee, with Donna Hanover, of an annual event called Hometown Heroes, which honors local youth for significant achievements. The reception is sponsored every year by the Mets, the TimesLedger newspapers and St. Marys Hospital.
Bobbys been a tremendous support to the children and families that we serve, said Libby Zimmer, president and chief executive officer of St. Marys Foundation for Children. He was always tremendously energetic and happy to support our Hometown Heroes events. St. Marys wishes him nothing but the best in his future.
Valentine may no longer have access to the Mets clubhouse, but his deeds on the field and off it have secured him an enviable position among business people and residents of Queens.
I wrote him a note this morning wishing him well and faxed it to him, McDermott said. I told him, Always know you have a home here, and always know you have a family here at TSI.
Reach reporter Joe Whalen by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2002 Community News Group
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