In 1977 the Los Angeles Dodgers boasted one of the better pitching staffs in the Majors. With every starter winning at least 12 games and losing no more than 10, the franchise’s success was built on its pitching.
That same year, scout Corito Varona traveled to Mexico to watch a Mexican League game and saw a 16 year old by the name of Fernando Valenzuela pitch. Four years later, the kid from Etchohuaquila, Mexico would go on to win the National League Rookie of the Year and lead the Dodgers to a World Series win.
The excitement and hysteria from the Mexican and Latino communities as well as other Dodgers fans became known as “Fernandomania.” In his 17-year career, the left-hander won 173 games and struck out 2,074 batters.
Although Valenzuela returned to the Dodgers organization in 2003 as one of the Spanish-language color commentators, the former big leaguer had not yet become a United States citizen. That changed earlier in the week when Valenzuela raised his right hand and took the Oath of Allegiance at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles along with about 8,000 others.
Valenzuela’s naturalization comes 34 years after his rookie season, the beginning of “Fernandomania,” and 25 years after his famous no-hitter. Aside from his success and impact on the field, Valenzuela has also been influential and inspirational off of it.
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