Dodgers, at followers’ urging, lastly retiring Fernando Valenzuela’s quantity

No Dodgers participant has donned the No. 34 since Fernando Valenzuela in 1990. 

It was put aside informally for the previous 33 years, a gesture carried on in reverence to the left-handed phenom from Etchohuaquila, Sonora, Mexico who sparked “Fernandomania” and rallied the Mexican neighborhood in Los Angeles and overseas together with his scintillating play. 

One of essentially the most impactful Dodgers for the reason that franchise moved west 65 years in the past, Valenzuela appeared unfazed by the strain when accidents to different members of the rotation compelled him into an Opening Day begin in 1981. The calm, precocious 20-year-old received every of his first eight video games, pitching seven full video games and 5 shutouts. “El Toro” surrendered simply two runs in 63 innings throughout that point, bringing followers out in flocks to witness the phenomenon.

It’s becoming, then, even many years later, that fan persistence ultimately helped persuade the Dodgers to eschew custom and completely reserve No. 34 for Valenzuela. 

Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten introduced Saturday that the crew will retire Valenzuela’s quantity this summer season as a part of a three-day weekend celebration, starting with a Ring of Honor ceremony on Aug. 11. 

“I walk through the stands every night,” Kasten stated. “I get all kinds of comments … but the question I get more than any other is about retiring Fernando’s jersey. That convinced us this is the right thing to do.”

With the exception of Jim Gilliam, who handed away all of the sudden in 1978, the Dodgers had adopted a long-held unofficial coverage of solely retiring the numbers of Hall of Famers. 

Now — lastly — there are two exceptions to the rule. 

“I was hoping that they would do it,” stated Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrín, who served as a translator for Valenzuela throughout “Fernandomania” and later labored alongside him within the Dodgers’ Spanish-language sales space. “I don’t know why they waited. They could have done this several years ago. But … it’s fantastic. It’s great.”

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Valenzuela, a member of the Dodgers’ Spanish-language broadcast crew since 2003, discovered the information Tuesday. 

He thought he was being referred to as in to Dodger Stadium to speak concerning the upcoming season’s broadcast. Instead, in a gathering on the mound, Kasten knowledgeable him of the membership’s determination.

Really?” Valenzuela responded incredulously earlier than cracking a smile. He saved the key for the previous week, permitting the Dodgers to make the announcement at their annual FanFest. 

“They got me by surprise,” Valenzuela stated Saturday. “But then I realized, ‘Well, I’ve been waiting for this.’ It’s the best feeling.”

For years, followers would ask Valenzuela when the crew was retiring his quantity. He would inform them it was out of his fingers. Demands solely grew when the Dodgers celebrated the 40-year anniversary of Fernandomania in 2021. But he hadn’t met the crew’s standards, a lot to the chagrin of the Los Angeles devoted. 

Valenzuela just isn’t among the many Dodger gamers within the National Baseball Hall of Fame — he was dropped from the poll after incomes solely 3.8% of the votes throughout his second yr of eligibility in 2004 — although he stays probably the most beloved. Fans and mates proceed to help his trigger. 

“The things he did for the community, for baseball, I think he deserves to be in the Hall,” Pepe Yñiguez, Valenzuela’s broadcast companion, stated Saturday. 

Like Jackie Robinson, Fernando is amongst a handful of Dodgers greats who might be acknowledged by first identify alone. The late Vin Scully as soon as referred to Fernandomania as “almost like a religious experience.” He was a major attraction. 

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The Dodgers averaged 42,523 followers per recreation in 1981. The subsequent closest was the Yankees at 31,654. Valenzuela’s begins have been a special sort of spectacle. On Opening Day, he shut out the Astros in entrance of fifty,511 followers. By his eighth begin, a bunch of 53,906 followers watched Valenzuela toss an entire recreation towards the Expos on a Thursday. 

Even opposing crowds grew exponentially. He drew 46,405 followers at Stade Olympique in Montreal on May 3 and 39,848 followers in a shutout win at Shea Stadium in New York 5 days later. The common attendance at these respective venues that season: 27,403 and 13,543. 

Guided by his signature screwball — a pitch he discovered from fellow Dodger Bobby Castillo to enrich his fastball and curveball — Valenzuela grew to become the one pitcher ever to win Cy Young and Rookie of the Year in the identical season. His magical season ended with a World Series title, thanks partially to his complete-game victory in Game 3 towards the Yankees. 

More than 40 years after the beginning of Fernandomania, followers haven’t forgotten the spectacle. 

“If people sense his name is going to be mentioned in some way, or his picture’s going to be on the screen, right away they turn and look at my booth there looking for Fernando,” Jarrín stated. “Then the applause. People love him.”

Valenzuela’s rookie season ended with 11 full video games, eight shutouts and a major-league-leading 180 strikeouts. He helped develop the sport worldwide and have become a cultural icon within the course of, a lot in order that longtime clubhouse supervisor Mitch Poole didn’t need to give away his quantity after Valenzuela’s departure from the Dodgers. 

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Something related had occurred earlier than. Three years earlier than Robinson’s No. 42 was retired by the Dodgers, it belonged briefly to a reliever named Ray Lamb in 1969. Poole wasn’t going to let that mistake be replicated. As Yñiguez recalled Saturday, Manny Ramirez as soon as requested for No. 34 after becoming a member of the Dodgers in 2008. The No. 24 that Ramirez wore with the Red Sox had already been retired in honor of Walter Alston, so his subsequent selection was the variety of his good friend and former Boston teammate David Ortiz. But Ramirez understood when his request was denied. 

“‘OK, I respect The Toro,’” Yñiguez recalled Ramirez saying. “‘Don’t give me that, give me 99.’”

Now, there will likely be no confusion. No must skirt across the guidelines. 

Valenzuela completed his 11-year Dodgers profession with six All-Star appearances, 141 wins and one no-hitter. He ended his 17-year big-league profession because the all-time chief in wins (173) and strikeouts (2,074) amongst gamers from Mexico.

Those numbers haven’t made him a Hall of Famer but. But, no less than at Dodger Stadium, his quantity will ceaselessly reside alongside them.  

“He belongs there,” Jarrín stated. 

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports. He beforehand was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner. 

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