Thursday, May 5, 2011

Familiar Faces / Strange Places: Fernando Valenzuela / Phillies

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I thought I would present one of the best baseball players to ever come from Mexico: Fernando Valenzuela.

Fernando was discovered in 1977 by a Dodgers scout while playing in the Mexican League. In 1981, as a 20-year-old, Valenzuela caught the attention of nation when he shutout the Astros on opening day. He started the season 8-0 with five shutouts and an ERA of 0.50. He finished that (strike shortened) season he went 13-7 with a sub 3 ERA. He was named both the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young award winner. He also led the Dodgers to the World Series over the Yankees (Reggie Jackson's last and Dave Winfield's first year in the Bronx).

Valenzuela was a Dodgers mainstay throughout the 1980s, winning 21 games in 1986 and pitching a no-hitter in 1990. He was injured during the 1988 Championship season, but still earned another ring. In the 1986 All-Star Game, Valenzuela made history by striking out five consecutive American League batters: Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken, Jesse Barfield, Lou Whitaker, and Teddy Higuera. Why Teddy Higuera was batting in the 5th inning of an all-star game, I will never know?

In 1991, he was released by the Dodgers after a rough spring training. In addition to playing in the Mexican League, he tried to make major league comeback attempts with the Angels (1991: 2 games), Tigers (signed, but never played), Orioles (1993: 32 games), Phillies (1994: 8 games). His only post Dodger success came in 1995-97 when he pitched effectively for the Padres. He finished his career with the 1997 St, Louis Cardinals, he was 0-4 in 5 appearances and was released in July.

The Dodgers invited him to spring training in 1999, he declined. He most recently pitched in the 2005-06 Mexican Winter League. He lso served on the coaching staff of Team Mexico during both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.


Anonymous said...

Love the Valenzuela mockup. When confirming that he never appeared as a Phillie on a Topps issue, I stumbled across this post -- great work on the card.

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