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Valenzuela, Fernando (1960–)

Valenzuela, Fernando (1960–)

Fernando Anguamea Valenzuela was one of the leading pitchers in major league baseball in the 1980s and was among the most popular players, especially among people of Mexican heritage, of his era.

Born in Navoja, Sonora, Mexico on November 1, 1960, the youngest of seven children, Valenzuela grew up in an impoverished village. He was taught baseball by his older brothers. His talent as an amateur pitcher drew professional scouts and he signed to play in the Mexican Central League in 1978. One year later, the Los Angeles Dodgers bought his contract and assigned him to their minor league system. At the end of the 1980 season he debuted with the big club and pitched 17 2/3 scoreless innings.

In 1981 he startled the baseball world when, after being named the opening day starter, he won eight consecutive games at the start of the season and triggered a cultural euphoria in Los Angeles and elsewhere that the press dubbed "Fernandomania." Following a 13-7 record in that strike-shortened season, he was voted Rookie of the Year and won the National League's Cy Young Award, the first rookie ever to win it. He capped his success with a complete-game World Series victory over the New York Yankees.

Valenzuela, whose polite demeanor and unorthodox windup won him the affection of fans throughout the nation, went on to be on to be one of the leading pitchers of the 1980s. His best season was 1986 when he led the National League with 21 wins and 20 complete games. In 1990 he threw a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Valenzuela retired from the game in 1997. In 2005 he was named by Major League Baseball as a member of the Latino Legends Team.

See alsoSports .


Littwin, Mike. Fernando! Toronto and New York: Bantam, 1981.

Regalado, Samuel O. Viva Baseball! Latin Major Leaguers and their Special Hunger. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998.

Wendel, Tim. The New Face of Baseball: The One-Hundred-Year Rise and Triumph of Latinos in America's Favorite Sport. New York: Rayo, 2003.

                                    Samuel O. Regalado

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