Skip to main content

Fernandomania returns!

Fernando Valenzuela has been added to the "Dodgers I Collect" page. He is the 10th player I've listed on the page and I can't think of a finer candidate to launch my pseudo-player collection into double digits.

I had intended for Valenzuela to be the next player added for a long time, but I needed a kick in the booty to actually look up my Fernando cards and make a list. That kick was viewing ESPN's documentary on Fernandomania for the first time the other day. (I know the documentary is two years old, but that's what happens when TV shows are aired when I'm working).

The film was pretty good. Not great. I find ESPN's attempts at films lacking and sometimes even amateurish.  But it did a good job of underlining one aspect of Valenzuela that I always enjoyed.

He seemed to come from another planet.

I don't just mean Mexico. I mean another planet in the solar system. He was that different.

People of my generation know what I mean. The phenomenon was insane. I know that a lot of the energy came from Mexican-American fans and the Latino community in Los Angeles and they deserve all the credit.

But I was a white East Coast teenager in 1981, and I was as captivated as anyone about Fernando.

The first rookie sensations I ever knew were Fred Lynn and Jim Rice on the 1975 Boston Red Sox.

After that, it was Mark Fidrych on the '76 Tigers. Then it was Eddie Murray in Baltimore. Andre Dawson in Montreal. Bob Horner in Atlanta. Joe Charbonneau in Cleveland.

Sure, the Dodgers had Sutcliffe and Howe, both Rookies of the Year. But you didn't hear talk about them on the East Coast. It wasn't until Fernandomania hit that someone like me -- 3,000 miles away -- could read about, watch and breathe the FEVER.

This is the card that I equate most with Fernando and Fernandomania.

You saw that look on Valenzuela's face a lot in 1981. You can read plenty into that face because it doesn't give away anything. Valenzuela was a mystery. He didn't speak English. He was reserved. He was humble. Yet, he wasn't intimidated, and went out there and won eight straight games as if these guys he was pitching against were just local yokels back in Navajoa, Mexico.


That was Fernando.

Valenzuela had a lot of ups and downs with the Dodgers and during his career Yet, I'm sure there were a lot of people back in 1981 that thought he was a one-year sensation who would eventually go back to Mexico and play there for the rest of his career.

He was full of surprises.

After his Cy Young year in 1981 as a rookie, he held out before the 1982 season and got himself nearly a million dollar raise. Who knew he had it in him? All they saw was this blank face staring back at them.

Today, Valenzuela is a popular broadcaster in L.A. I've written before about how there aren't a lot of current cards of him, and it's probably because he charges too much for card companies to sign him.

So, collecting his cards should be relatively easy. Although it'd be nice to have some snazzy autograph cards, I already have a pretty nice one. And knowing that there's a somewhat finite number of cards to chase makes it a lot preferable to trying to flag down cards of current players.

Fernando's cards evoke a time when I still thought everything was possible. He confirmed it for me.

I also saw a little bit of myself in him. Someone that people regarded lightly at first and then were surprised later by what the person could achieve. I've encountered that attitude all my life, from teachers to bosses to peers.

So, here's to showing the know-it-alls how it's done.

Here's to Fernandomania.

And here's to collecting his relatively manageable number of cards (no, I still don't expect to get all of them).

Welcome to the club, El Toro.


John Bateman said…
Still remember the SI issue in 1981 that mentioned his 1981 Fleer card was selling for a dollar.
Commishbob said…
Great post N.O. EVen my in-laws, who knew nothing about any sports, much less baseball, we're caught up in Fernandomania. It was just insane.

Popular posts from this blog

Stuck in traffic with Series 2

In the whirlwind that has been my life this month, I found myself going absolutely nowhere for a portion of Thursday afternoon. I was in the middle of yet another road trip, the third one this week. This one was for work, and because it was job-related, it became quickly apparent that it would be a waste of time. The only thing that could save it was a side visit to the nearby Walmart to see if I could spot some Topps Series 2. I found it right away, which was shocking as I was pretty much in the middle of the country, where SUVs share the road with tractors and buggies. Who knew that the Amish wanted Series 2, too? The problem was getting back into civilization to open the contents of the 72-card hanger box I bought. The neighboring village is undergoing a summer construction project smack in the middle of downtown. It's not much of a downtown, but the main road happens to be the main artery in the entire county. Everyone -- and by everyone I mean every tractor trailer ha

Heading upstate

  Back in 1999, Sports Illustrated published an edition at the end of the year rating the top 50 athletes of the century for every state.   As a lifelong Upstate New Yorker, I braced for a list of New York State athletes that consisted almost entirely of downstate natives, that is, folks from the greater NYC area and Long Island.   We Upstaters are used to New York City trampling all over the rest of the state. They have the most people, the loudest voices. It happens all the time. It's a phenomenon unique to this state. Heck, there are still people out there who, when you tell them you're from New York, automatically think you're from NYC. They don't think of cows and chickens when they think of New York. But trust me, there are a lot of cows and chickens in New York State. Especially cows.   So, anyway, when I counted up the baseball players that SI listed as the greatest from New York State, six of the nine were from New York City or Long Island. I was surprised all

G.O.A.T, the '80s: 30-21

  I often call this current period of the television sports calendar the black hole of sports programming. The time between the end of the Super Bowl and the beginning of televised Spring Training baseball games is an empty void when I'm looking for something to watch on traditional television. I don't watch the NBA and I find the NHL on TV holds my interest for maybe a period. College basketball I can't watch until the tournament. This didn't used to be as much of a problem back when I could turn instead to my favorite sitcoms in February. Do you remember when February was "sweeps month"? (Maybe it still is, I don't know). Networks would make sure that every top show aired original episodes that month, no reruns. So you'd always have something to view during the week even when the sports scene was boring. (I know, people have multiple streaming viewing options now. But I find myself going weeks sometimes before I see something I want to view on Netfli