(Dodger Stadium-Los Angeles, CA)––On another post-card and picture-perfect day in our City of the Angels, MLB’s best team–the Dodgers, claimed another huge homefield victory over the Miami Marlins by displaying their home run and extra-base hitting power, much to the great delight of the 53,788 adoring fans who filled this special ceremony of the inaugural Legends of Dodger Baseball Day, 7/20/19, at the ballpark. At the time of this writing, the final score was (10-6), boosting the Dodgers record to (66-35), and leading the second place Arizona Diamondbacks by 15 games.
Brief Game Summary: Leading the way with homers were: Joc Pederson (22), Justin Turner (13), and Matt Beaty (5). Belting doubles were: Max Muncy (5), Corey Seager (23), and Austin Barnes (10). Credited with RBIs were: Seager (3) and who went (3-4) and Muncy with (2). Pederson, Turner, Kike Hernandez, Russell Martin, Barnes, Beaty, and Clayton Kershaw, all with (1). Although Kershaw pitched six outstanding scoreless innings (10Ks/2 hits/1 BB/0 Earned Runs), the Dodgers couldn’t hold the lead, allowing one run in the 7th and five in the 8th to the Marlins, thus tying up the game. The Boys in Blue then rallied to put up four runs in the bottom of the 8th to win going away. Reliever, Pedro Baez (5–2), was credited with the win, going 2/3 of an inning.
But before the game started, the ceremony to induct the first three players into the “Legends of Dodger Baseball“ took place. Joining the late and great pitcher, #36 Don Newcombe, legendary first baseman, #6 Steve Garvey, and rightfully taking his place, was none other than #34 himself, Fernando “El Toro” Valenzuela. He was joined by his wife, Linda, their daughters and grandchildren. The Valenzuela Family proudly looked on with much happiness and gratitude as they recognized the importance of this richly deserved recognition for their loved one. Also invited to attend were his former Dodger catcher, and recently retired L.A. Angels manager, Mike Scioscia and his longtime friend, Mike Brito, the local Dodger scout from nearby Boyle Heights, who first discovered Fernando in 1977 pitching for his hometown team, Los Mayos de Navojoa, in Sonora, Mexico. He eventually went on to sign the young left-handed throwing Dodger legend. Also, add to the celebratory mix, the 1998 recipient of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, Ford C. Frick Award, (honoring baseball broadcasters), the revered Spanish-language voice, and decades long “play-by-play” announcer of the Dodgers, Jaime Jarrin. All four of these men, certainly brought back the great memories and years of many fun and winning days spent at Dodger Stadium.
Fernando’s career Dodger stats reflect the following: (173) games won, a (3.54) ERA, a 2 x Silver Slugger (2.62) batting average, 6 x All-Star, a 1981 Game #3 World Series (5-4) complete game win over the New York Yankees, Cy Young Award Winner in his rookie season, and Rookie of the Year, 1981. Fernando was known for his nasty and infamous “screwball” pitch that all hitters feared. He always gave credit to his late Dodger teammate, and the team’s hometown favorite, Bobby “Babo” Castillo (Lincoln HS/L.A. Valley College), who taught him how to throw it.
From 1980 to 1990, one of the most exciting performers in baseball was the creator and generator of one of the best descriptors of his dominant pitching and surprising hitting game—“Fernandomania.” Thanks to his athletic skills and efforts, he galvanized all of major baseball, attracted a gigantic new baseball fandom in the millions of Mexican and Mexican-Americans who were not only Los Angelenos, but as well, a distinct and growing fan-base that represented other Latin-American countries who dearly and passionately love this game. Thanks to Fernando’s storybook career, the scouting eyes of all MLB clubs began to turn more fervently and with more focused discretion to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and many other Central and South American countries. The newest Legend of Dodger Baseball can truly claim that he was a big part of MLB’s transformation to thoroughly scout, and eventually sign thousands, of more Latinos into major league baseball.
Today, Valenzuela continues his passionate involvement with baseball as one of the team’s Spanish-language broadcasters. He is now going on his 16th season of providing coverage to one of the world’s most famous teams. Muchas Gracias Fernando!!
Photo Credits: Marvin Jimenez, TG Sportstv1