In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15, join us as we celebrate the Hispanic individuals that have influenced culture, social justice, and progress in Los Angeles and, in some instances, the nation. Check back often as we highlight a new iconic Hispanic Angeleno throughout the month.
Today we celebrate Fernando Valenzuela:
To L.A. sports fans Fernando Valenzuela is more than just a former pitcher for the boys in blue.
Picture this: It's a bright Thursday afternoon on April 9, 1981 on opening day at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are playing against the Houston Astros, but starting pitcher Jerry Reuss is unable to play due to an injury. Then, out comes rookie Fernando Valenzuela, a 20 year-old from Sonora, Mexico. This new #34 Dodger does not look like a traditional pitcher: he is not lean and has long brown hair under his baseball cap. Once he takes the mound Valenzuela confuses the Astros' batters. He moves a lot, making it hard for batters to keep track of his signature screwballs. Valenzuela, on his first day playing for the Dodgers, plays a shoutout game, leading to a 2-0 win.
Fernandomania immediately took over the city. The Latino community finally had a reason to return to Chavez Ravine as Valenzuela continued to wow crowds, setting records and pitching more shoutout games. Demand for stadium tickets led to sold out games and higher attendance in away games, as fans from other cities wanted to get a look at the Dodger's new star pitcher. In his rookie season Valenzuela helped lead the Dodgers to the World Series, defeating the New York Yankees for their first championship since 1965. He ended up winning Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Awards, becoming the first player to win both awards in the same season.
Valenzuela played for the Dodgers until 1991, earning the nickname "El Toro" (the bull) from loving fans. Now, Valenzuela is a an announcer for the Dodger's Spanish broadcast, alongside Jaime Jarrín and Pepe Yñiguez. He also runs the "Amigos of Fernando" program, which brings kids to Dodger Stadium. Valenzuela is also involved with "Reviving Baseball in Innercities," a MLB youth outreach program.
ICONIC HISPANIC ANGELENOS 2012
Click the images below to learn more about each portrait.