Fernando Valenzuela Number Retired By Los Angeles Dodgers, As ‘Fernandomania’ Lives Again

One of the greatest pitchers in Los Angeles Dodgers history was honored Friday night at Dodger Stadium before the game.

The Dodgers retired Fernando Valenzuela’s No. 34 jersey, the culminating event in the city council declaration of “Fernando Valenzuela Day.”

“It’s very emotional,” Valenzuela, 62, told a crowded room of English and Spanish-language media hours before the ceremony. “I never expected it.”

A drone show honoring Valenzuela is expected after the game against the Colorado Rockies. On Saturday, the team is giving away his bobblehead, and on Sunday, the giveaway is a replica of Valenzuela’s 1981 World Series ring.

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Valenzuela broke in with the Dodgers in a huge way in 1981. Besides winning the World Series, he won Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award, the first player to do so in the same year.

He was named the Opening Day starter that year by manager Tommy Lasorda and responded with a 2-0 victory over Houston, beginning the season with an 8-0 record, including five shutouts, and an 0.50 ERA.

“Tommy Lasorda came up to me and said, ‘Are you ready to pitch tomorrow?’ I said, ‘I’m ready,’” Valenzuela recalled. “That’s what I was looking for, the opportunity to show what I can do.”

Valenzuela’s signature pitch was the screwball, taught to him by teammate Bobby Castillo in 1979.

Beyond the diamond, he had a huge cultural impact.

The native of Mexico was credited for drawing large numbers of Latino fans to Dodger Stadium, creating the “Fernandomania” sensation.

Valenzuela’s now-retired number was unveiled on the left field club level, where he joined previous honorees Pee Wee Reese, Lasorda, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Jim Gilliam, Don Sutton, Walter Alston, Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Don Drysdale and Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrín.

Valenzuela also won the 1988 World Series with the Dodgers, as well as Silver Slugger awards in 1981 and ’83. He pitched for the team from 1980-90. He retired in 1997.

Valenzuela is the color commentator on the Spanish-language broadcasts for its SportsNet LA cable channel.

His career marks as a Dodger still put him among the team leaders. During his stint, he had 141 wins, 1,759 strikeouts, 320 starts, and 107 complete games. He also had 29 shutouts.

Valenzuela became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2015.

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