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Fernando Valenzuela and Fernandomania

Sports news takes top billing alongside consumer news such as that of the Chevrolet Volt. Fernando Valenzuela was a major league baseball pitcher who played for six teams during his big league career, most notably the Los Angeles Dodgers between 1980 and 1990. He was a flamboyant and charismatic pitcher who set off what was then known as Fernandomania, a phenomenon among Dodger fans in the early 1980s. During his rookie campaign in 1981, he became the first pitcher in the history of the game to win Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young Award, the Silver Slugger Award, and a World Series title all in the same year.

Valenzuela's 1981 Rookie Season

The year Fernando Valenzuela had in 1981 still stands as a historical season in baseball annals. If it were not for a player strike that wiped out the middle portion of the season, one could only imagine what he could have accomplished. As it was, he started the season 8 and 0 with five shutouts and a ridiculous ERA of 0.50. After the strike ended and play resumed, he was not quite as dominant, but still did well enough to finish the season with 13 wins and help propel Los Angeles to the World Series, where he pitched a complete game in Game 3 to help them defeat the New York Yankees on their way to their first league title since the 1960s [1].

This rookie season enjoyed by Fernando Valenzuela made him an instant icon among Dodger fans and even among casual fans and car insurance customers (even those with specaizlied policies like performance or DWI car insurance), capping off Fernandomania, which treated him more like a rock star or cult figure than a simple twenty year old ball player from Mexico. One of the things that magnetically drew people in was the unique delivery used by Fernando Valenzuela, in which he looked up at the sky right as he was getting ready to deliver every pitch. It was as if he was trying to invoke the power of God to help him with his fantastic screwball.

Fernando Valenzuela as a Hitter

In the batter's box Fernando Valenzuela seemed just as comfortable as he was on the mound. He won the National League Silver Slugger Award, which is given out to one player at each position as is the hitting equivalent of the Gold Glove for fielding, two different times. In one season, in 1990, Fernando Valenzuela actually hit above .300 a magical mark for a lot of position players and unheard of for most pitchers, who invariably hit ninth in National League and interleague games and are often thought of as easy out. He even displayed some power, hitting home runs and knocking runners in as a hitter.

He played through the 1990 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was released in the spring of 1990 after a few years of declining performances. Fernando Valenzuela played for some other teams through the 1990s on an intermittent basis, even winning 13 games for the San Diego Padres in 1996. But he will always be best remembered for his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a time where he became affectionately known as "El Toro" and gave the team plenty of innings most years through the entire decade he was with them. Fernando Valenzuela is unlikely to reach the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame because his career numbers in terms of wins especially are not where they would probably need to be. Had he been more durable, Fernando Valenzuela may have gotten to that level as a player, because he certainly had the stuff on the mound to pitch in a dominant fashion.


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