Talk about a blown rescue.
Then again, it Dodgers is the same organization whose miscalculations resulted in a seven-year TV blackout. Of course, they dropped the ball when they were presented with a perfect opportunity to officially remove Fernando Valenzuela’s No. 34 from the jersey rotation.
But hey, the 50th anniversary too Fernandomania is only a decade away. Maybe the Dodgers will get over it then.
Leads up to celebration Sunday of Valenzuela’s landmark rookie season, there were renewed calls for the franchise to make an exception to the arbitrary policy of withdrawing only the Hall of Famers. The widespread conversations talked about the enormous heritage of Valenzuela. They also hid a more serious omission.
Valenzuela should be anchored in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Before refuting the premise by quoting the career numbers or brevity to the top, consider this: Bid selig, a former Major League Baseball commissioner, is a Hall of Famer.
This is not to say that Blessed does not deserve.
If Selig had not supported the home run in the late 1990s by looking the other way when the players started injecting steroids, who knows if baseball would ever have recovered from the last work stoppage?
I’m just kidding.
Seriously, if commissioners can receive the highest honor of baseball for creating the stage on which today’s players perform, a player should also be able to.
Outside Jackie Robinson and maybe Babe Ruth, Valenzuela reshaped the baseball landscape more than any other player in history. He expanded the game’s customer base. He further internationalized the player pool.
His significance for the Dodgerswas particularly critical of the point that the former owner Walter O’Malley imagined him before he existed. The longtime Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrín has often talked about how O’Malley wanted to find a “Mexican Sandy Koufax” to attract Los Angeles’ growing Mexican and Mexican American populations.
The Dodgers actually found him, which in itself was a miracle. People in American football circles have spent decades looking for a Mexican American star, and the best thing they have come up with is who, Herculez Gomez?
Valenzuela made the Dodgers the team of a community that once suspected the franchise. The sheriff’s deputies literally dragged Mexican Americans out of the Chavez Ravine homes to clear the land on which Dodger Stadium was later built.
The audience that was won by Valenzuela remains.
Years ago, Mexican-born Julio Urías was asked if his father ever told him stories about Valenzuela.
“My grandfather did,” Urías replied.
In addition to inspiring several generations of Latin American players, Valenzuela created several generations of Mexican fans.
The children of Valenzuela’s fans, and now even their children, have become Dodgers fans. Now more than 40% of the team’s fans are Latino. Jarrín has often noticed their loyalty. To his point: The Dodgers have fielded some bad teams over the last 20 seasons, and all but one of them ended the season with an annual home visit of more than 3 million fans.
During a video conference he attended with Valenzuela this weekend, Jarrín talked about how “El Toro” helped immigrants find their place in this city. Jarrín said his favorite memory from the 1981 season was the time he accompanied Valenzuela to a White House luncheon held in honor of then-Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo.
“The most powerful people in the government stood in line waiting for a young man from Mexico who did not speak English to sign an autograph for them,” Jarrín said.
And Valenzuela could look up.
Throughout the 1986 season, he was 99-68 with a 2.94 earned running average, 84 complete games and 24 shutouts. The amount of work eventually caught up with him.
Dodgers’ Spanish-speaking voice since 1959, Jarrín is undoubtedly worthy of his place on the Hall of Fame’s broadcast wing. But even he acknowledged that he was elected in part because of Valenzuela. In addition to calling games, Jarrín served as Valenzuela’s interpreter at news conferences, which gained him exposure in other markets and in addition to extending the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award.
Valenzuela deserves a place next to him.
Valenzuela could receive the Buck O’Neil Award, which the Hall of Fame awards once every three or more years to “an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced the positive impact of baseball on society, expanded the appeal of the game, and whose character, integrity, and dignity are comparable to the qualities that O’Neil shows. ”
Or he may be elected to his rightful place on the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, which considers candidates who are no longer eligible to be voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Valenzuela had to be elected by today’s game committee, which will hold its next election in 2022.
Valenzuela reflected on the rookie season and talked about the importance of the emergency start he started on the opening day.
“If things had been different, if I had not done my job, we do not know if there would have been more opportunities, no?” In Valenzuela.
Jarrín agreed, but not completely.
“Still,” said Jarrín, “logically the talent would show up sooner or later.”
The same goes for. Valenzuela’s place in history is secure. Sooner or later, it must be properly recognized.