In 1981, a "mania" took over Los Angeles. Some would say it took over the entire baseball world. That was "Fernandomania" in honor of Mexican hurler Fernando Valenzuela.
The Dodgers accidentally discovered Valenzuela as they were scouting a Shortstop in Mexico. They were dazzled by the rotund hurler and signed him, buying out his Mexican League contract in 1979. A year later, he was a September callup, and in 17.2 Innings, he never allowed a run. It didn't take a clairvoyant to see what might happen in 1981.
"El Toro" helped the Dodgers win the 1981 World Series. That season, he won the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young, making him the first player to accomplish that in the same year. Valenzuela was the opening day starter, and everyone in Los Angeles took the Mexican star.
The mania surrounding Valenzuela cooled, but he was still an elite pitcher for many years. He was an All-Star each year from 1981 to 1986, and he had three more top-five finishes in Cy Young voting. Valenzuela would have three 200 Strikeout years, and he was also a decent batter, winning two Silver Sluggers.
The All-Star years were over by 1987, and he played until 1997, with stops in California, the Mexican League, Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Diego, and St. Louis. He retired with 173 Wins and 2,074 Strikeouts.
Pitchers had better careers, but many of those never captured the imagination of baseball fans like Fernando Valenzuela.
In 2019, he was one of four players to have a plaque in recognition as a Legend of Dodger Baseball, but that might be rescinded, as that was reserved for great players who were not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2023, the Dodgers reversed course, and announced that his #34 would be retired by the team.