05 May 2010

a cinco de mayo fernando valenzuela final tribute!

true story.  i once literally bumped into fernando.  it was at dodger stadium, circa 1982 or 1983.  before certain games the dodgers would put a player or two at various locations in the concourse to sign autographs and i was walking back to my seat (i don't remember which player's autograph i obtained) when i saw mike scioscia being escorted presumably back to the clubhouse from his table.  i was paying so much attention to him walking by that i walked right into the guy on the near side of the dodger security dude.  i looked up and it was fernando. 
no harm, no foul and we each went on our merry way.  i really like the 1990 donruss baseball's best card shown above because it shows fernando on the mound in dodger stadium with his chest out and the red number 34 fully visible.  if you had asked me anytime between 1981 and 1991, i would have told you that that number would be retired shortly after fernando hung up his spikes - whether he made the hall of fame or not.

well, fernando made his final big league appearance in 1997.  after starting the season with the padres, he went to the cardinals (in a multi-player trade that included recent and now former dodger mark sweeney) for whom he made 5 starts and threw 22+ innings in july.  he was released following the july 14 game in which he gave up 3 earned runs on just 2 hits (but 6 walks) in 2.2 innings.  the last batter he faced was hal morris, who singled.  worried that his midsummer release would result in no more cards, i was very happy to see that upper deck saw fit to honor el toro in their 1998 set with a true final tribute card
but, we all know that fernando didn't retire - he went on to pitch in the mexican league off and on over the following years until 2006, i believe. since then, he has been a coach for the mexican national teams that competed in the world baseball classics and is currently a spanish radio analyst for the dodgers.  he is also a great through the mail signer!

as for his number 34, it isn't retired by the dodgers, but it also hasn't been worn by anyone else since he was released in 1991.  not even don sutton was given that honor.

viva fernando!  if i had a sombrero, i would throw it to the sky! 

1 comment:

Play at the Plate said...

I need to get a TTM request to him. He was really the first BIG story I remember from my early of days collecting.