Fernando Valenzuela became the final inductee of the inaugural class of Legends of Dodger Baseball before Saturday evening’s game against the Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium.
The ceremony included appearances by Mike Scioscia, the Dodgers starting catcher when Valenzuela pitched for them; Mike Brito, the Dodger scout who discovered Valenzuela in 1979 when he was an 18-year-old pitching in the Mexican League; and longtime Dodger broadcaster Jaime Jarrin.
Valenzuela ignited what would be dubbed “Fernandomania” when he went 8-0 with five shutouts, seven complete games and an 0.50 ERA in his first eight starts as a 20-year-old rookie in 1981, baffling hitters with his screwball and becoming the only player to win the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season.
The Dodgers purchased Valenzuela’s contract from Leones de Yucatan on July 6, 1979, and assigned him to their Class-A California League affiliate in Lodi.
Valenzuela was taught to throw a screwball by Dodger pitcher Bobby Castillo following the 1979 season. Armed with the new pitch, Valenzuela led the Texas League in strikeouts in 1980.
Valenzuela made his Dodger debut in 1980, not allowing an earned run in 17 2/3 innings in 10 relief appearances and posting a 2-0 record.
When Jerry Reuss pulled a leg muscle 24 hours before his scheduled opening day start in 1981 and Burt Hooton wasn’t ready to fill in, Valenzuela became the Dodgers opening day starter, pitching a five-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory over the defending National League West champion Houston Astros.
Valenzuela was a six-time National League all-star, led the league in strikeouts in 1981 and victories in 1986. He pitched a no-hitter in 1990, his final season with the Dodgers.
Valenzuela was released by the Dodgers during spring training in 1991. He continued to pitch in the majors through 1997 and in Mexico’s winter league through 2006. He has been a Dodger broadcaster since 2003.
The team will induct legends on an annual basis in recognition of their impact on the franchise, both on and off the field. Inductees will receive a plaque honoring their Dodger achievements, which will also be on permanent display at Dodger Stadium.
The late Brooklyn Dodgers pitching great Don Newcombe was the first inductee, inducted before the April 27 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Retired first baseman Steve Garvey was the second, inducted before the June 1 game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
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