While we mourn the suspension of baseball, it’s also a time of celebration for Dodgers fans. If you were around to see Fernando Valenzuela pitch in the 1980s, you know that it was a very special time in Los Angeles. Valenzuela kicked off a historic campaign in 1981 resulting in a Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year award, and a World Series Championship.
Fernandomania kicked off exactly 39 years ago today, as a 20-year-old Valenzuela took the mound for the first start of his career. Fernando shut down the Houston Astros for a complete-game win, striking out five and walking two in the process. Valenzuela started the season by going 8–0 with five shutouts and a ridiculous 0.50 ERA.
Valenzuela drew large crowds in Los Angeles almost every time he came out to pitch, with his wild pitching style and his rookie success. He finished the season with a 2.48 ERA and a 13-7 record on a shortened MLB season. The league lost the middle third of the season when a player’s strike shut baseball down for a few weeks. While Valenzuela was not nearly as dominant after the strike, he was still able to take home plenty of awards.
Since that day 39 years ago, Fernando has been a favorite among all Dodgers fans. He continues to work with the team today as a color commentator job on the Spanish-language feed of SportsNetLA.