Valentine Was A Force On, Off the Court

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Valentine Was A Force On, Off the Court

Tennis was one of E. Massie Valentine’s biggest passions throughout his life, and he will be remembered as much for his playing skills on the court as well as his numerous contributions to the local and regional game on many levels.

“Oh my god, he loved it,” said Massie’s older brother, Henry, of Massie’s involvement in the sport.

Massie Valentine passed away on August 3 following a long illness. He was 82.

Valentine’s most significant contribution locally may have been in helping get the Fidelity Bankers Life Invitational indoor tournament at the old Arena off the ground in 1966. Finding a sponsor for the eight-man amateur field was mandatory.

“Massie knew all of the right people and had all of the right connections,” said Lou Einwick, one of Valentine’s best friends and director of the tournament, which eventually moved to the Coliseum and became one of the highlights of the area sports scene.

“He was the one who contacted Fidelity Bankers Life,” said Einwick. “He knew Dick Guilford [executive vice-president of Fidelity].

So he was the one who contacted Guilford, and was really the one responsible for bringing in Fidelity as our first sponsor.

“The second thing Massie meant to the tournament was he was in charge of selling all the box seats to begin with and everything. Massie certainly used all of his connections greatly for the benefit of the tournament.”

Valentine served as president of the Richmond Tennis Patrons Association (now Richmond Tennis Association) for two years (1962-63) and also endowed a tennis scholarship at the University of Virginia, his alma mater.

He served notice that he was going to be a force on the local and state scene when he won the Boys’ 15-under Virginia singles and doubles championships in 1948, when he was just 14. Quite an achievement at an early age.

Valentine attended St. Christopher’s but moved to Woodberry Forest, where he served as captain of the tennis team from 1950 to 1952. After graduation, Massie went to U.Va., where he played on the team from 1953-55.

He made his first mark on the city tournament when he teamed with Henry Valentine to reach the doubles final in 1954, when the event was held at the Country Club of Virginia, which was where the Valentines were members.

It was the eighth straight year that Henry Valentine had been in the final, having won three of them with Shelton Horsley.

The following year (1955), the Valentines reached the semifinals before losing.

“When we came off the court, Massie tells me, ‘That’s as good as I can play, but we got beat,’” said Henry Valentine, chuckling. “I sort of interpreted that as, well, he’s trying to tell me that I was lousy. My response to him was, ‘Well, this is the first year in eight that I haven’t been in the finals,’ and walked off.

“We had a lot of fun in those days.”

Massie Valentine went on to win the city doubles five times, beginning with Bobby Payne in 1957. He claimed four of those in a row from 1962-65. Three of those titles came with O.H. Parrish and one with Bruce Sylvia

“He was smart,” said Parrish, who was eight years Valentine’s junior. “He knew the game. He knew his game and played to his advantages and did it real well. He was very quick at the net. I don’t remember anybody any quicker at the net than Massie in his prime.”

Valentine didn’t play much singles, preferring the doubles game that used more strategy and thinking one step ahead of your opponents.

“O.H. used to say he wanted to get a breast protector, like the [baseball] catchers wore, when he was up at the net and Massie was serving, because he was getting killed,” said Henry Valentine. “His serve was sort of a sugar rag. Like somebody throwing it over underhanded.”

Massie Valentine was also a two-time state doubles champion, taking the crown in 1962 with Hal Burrows and the following year with Parrish. The latter duo were runners-up in 1966-67.

“Massie was a hell of a good doubles player,” said Henry Valentine. “It was of much more interest to him than singles. It’s sort of a thinking man’s game.”

For all of his contributions to the game, both on and off the court, Massie Valentine was inducted into the Richmond Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.

Parrish pointed out that Massie Valentine served as captain of the local Hotchkiss Cup team that competed against Norfolk, Washington and Baltimore. He also served as captain of the Middle Atlantic squad that played teams from the New England, Eastern and Middle States sections in the Church Cup.

Both of those competitions matched the best amateur players in those cities or sections in some bruising battles.

Valentine was happy to lend a hand playing on the team or serving as the captain that lined up the players.

“For most of his working life, he was playing tennis and supporting tennis at multiple levels,” said Parrish. “He played a leadership role in tennis in Richmond. He was much more than just a tennis player.”

And for that, Massie Valentine won’t soon be forgotten by those who follow tennis in Richmond.