Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The time has finally come as the Los Angeles Dodgers are set to retire the jersey of Fernando Valenzuela at Dodger Stadium with a three-day celebration of the legendary pitcher taking place from August 11-13 while they face the Colorado Rockies.
Valenzuela’s No. 34 will take its place among those previously displayed in the Dodger Stadium Ring of Honor.
The display on the field club level already includes Pee Wee Reese (No. 1), Tommy Lasorda (No. 2), Duke Snider (No. 4), Gil Hodges (No. 14). Jim Gilliam (No. 19), Don Sutton (No. 20), Walter Alston (No. 24), Sandy Koufax (No. 32), Roy Campanella (No. 39), Jackie Robinson (No. 42), Don Drysdale (No. 53), and Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrín.
“To be a part of the group that includes so many legends is a great honor,” Valenzuela said. “But also for the fans — the support they’ve given me as a player and working for the Dodgers, this is also for them. I’m happy for all the fans and all the people who have followed my career. They’re going to be very excited to know that my No. 34 is being retired.”
Valenzuela’s career took off when he made an unexpected start and pitched a shutout of the Houston Astros on Opening Day in 1981, which led to eight consecutive victories, including five shutouts and a streak of 35 scoreless innings.
His remarkable start gave rise to the phenomenon known as “Fernandomania” and immediately created an almost unparalleled and lasting impact. The Mexican left-hander single-handedly grew the Dodgers fanbase during this time, not just among Mexicans living in L.A. and Mexico, but among those in other Spanish-speaking countries as well.
“He created more baseball fans, and Dodger fans, than any other player,” said Jarrín, who called Dodger games from 1959-2022. “Thanks to this kid, people fell in love with baseball. Especially within the Mexican community.”
During his first full season, Valenzuela went on to win National League Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award and a World Series championship. Valenzuela is the only player in MLB history to win both awards in the same season.
“El Toro” was celebrated for his unorthodox pitching delivery and his signature pitch, the screwball, taught to him by friend and teammate Bobby Castillo in 1979. Valenzuela won a career-high 21 games in 1986 and threw a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 29, 1990, in which Scully exclaimed after the final out: “If you have a sombrero, throw it to the sky!”
In his 11 seasons with the Dodgers from 1980-1990, Valenzuela was selected to six All-Star teams, won two Silver Slugger Awards (1981, 1983), and was part of two World Series championship teams.
He finished his career among the all-time Dodgers leaders in starts (320, fourth), innings (2,348.2, fourth), complete games (107, fourth), strikeouts (1,769, fifth), shutouts (29, fifth) and wins (141, sixth).
“I am incredibly happy that number 34 for the Los Angeles Dodgers will be retired forever,” Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said. “The one question that I continuously get asked, more than anything else, is about retiring Fernando Valenzuela’s number. The citywide call by our fans to honor him is truly remarkable.
“What he accomplished during his playing career, not only on the field but in the community, is extraordinary. He truly lit up the imaginations of baseball fans everywhere. It’s hard to envision a player having a greater impact on a fan base than the one Fernando has had.”
Valenzuela retired in 1997 after 17 Major League seasons as the all-time leader in wins (173) and strikeouts (2,074) among Mexican-born Major Leaguers.
After his retirement, the native of Etchohuaquila, Sonora, Mexico, joined the Dodgers’ broadcast crew in 2003 alongside Jarrín, and he has remained active in both the L.A. and Mexican communities.
Valenzuela was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame on August 23, 2003 in a pregame on the field ceremony at Dodger Stadium, and in 2013 he was enshrined into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 2019, the Mexican Baseball League retired his No. 34 and he was inducted into the “Legends of Dodger Baseball.”
In 2015, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States, and last year he was honored with the “Outstanding Americans by Choice” recognition from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Service.
In addition, Valenzuela has served as a player, coach and general manager for Team Mexico in several international competitions, including the World Baseball Classic.
Fernandomania Weekend at Dodger Stadium
Friday, August 11: Fernando Valenzuela jersey retirement ceremony, drone show, L.A. City proclamation
Fernandomania Weekend kicks off at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall, where the Los Angeles City Council will issue a special proclamation to declare August 11, 2023, as “Fernando Valenzuela Day” in the city.
The festivities continue at Dodger Stadium with a pregame Ring of Honor ceremony featuring several distinguished guests, in addition to the Valenzuela family, starting at 6:20 p.m. PT. A postgame drone show celebrating Valenzuela’s career will also take place on Friday night.
Saturday, August 12: Bobblehead giveaway
On Saturday, the first 40,000 ticketed fans will be treated to a collector’s edition Valenzuela bobblehead.
Sunday, August 13: Replica Ring giveaway
The festivities conclude with the Dodgers giving out a replica Valenzuela 1981 World Series ring prior to the 1:10 p.m. game.
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