In honor of the sacred 50th anniversary of our Beloved Dodger Stadium, I will be releasing my top ten moments of Dodger Stadium history. Currently the Dodgers are casting a special vote on what the top ten moments of the last 50 years at the Ravine are. These are my top ten however. Please note these are mine, and mine alone. These are the top ten moments according to me, a lifelong fanatical Dodger fan, who has grown up in southern California. There are so many memories it is almost too hard to choose just ten. I will count down each one per day, leading up to the Dodger’s Opening day game April 5th in San Diego. Each one of these moments will make you smile, laugh, and will bring chills down your spine. Some of them may even take your breath away. Without further adieu, I give you the number four moment in Dodger Stadium history: Fernando Valenzuela’s No-Hitter
On June 29, 1990, one of the most beloved Dodger pitchers of all time, pitched a no-hitter. Legendary lefty Fernando Valenzuela no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals, leading the Dodgers to a 6-0 win. Now this post isn’t about Fernandomania. That is a whole post in of itself, and for another day. This top ten list is about single games, or individual moments. Of course Fernandomania was a season long phenomena, more like a culture, of adoring fans who would flock to Dodger Stadium every time Fernando took the mound.
Valenzuela, the youngest of twelve children born dirt poor in a small farm village in Mexico, was signed by the Dodgers for 120,000 dollars in 1979, while he was pitching in the Mexican Leagues. Fernando took the nation by storm. He pitched in 10 games out of the bullpen in September of 1980. In 1981, Jerry Reuss, the Dodgers scheduled opening day starter, fell ill just days before opening day. Fernando Valenzuela was named the emergency starter. He went on to shutout the Astros, and capture the hearts of Dodger fans everywhere. That year he won the Cy young award, and rookie of the year awards in the same season. He went on to lead the Dodgers into the playoffs, and to a world series title in 1981. He was well known for his unorthodox windup and delivery and his nasty screwball.
A large percent of Dodger fans in Los Angeles and Southern California are Latino, or of Mexican-American heritage. Fernando was their hero, and Mexican-American Dodger fans flocked to Dodger Stadium in great numbers to watch Fernando pitch. During Fernandomania, Dodger Stadium was alive with spirit. Every Valenzuela start was like a fiesta. Fernando went on to win 143 games over ten years for the Dodgers. He pitched 29 shutouts while in Blue, was an all-star six times, won two silver slugger awards, one Cy Young award, one rookie of the year award, one world championship, and a permanent place in Dodger fans hearts forever.
On the eve of Fernando’s no-hitter, Valenzuela was sitting in the clubhouse watching another no-hitter be completed on television. There was two no-hitters thrown on this night. Valenzuela watched Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart no-hit the Blue Jays, while in the clubhouse before the game. Once the game was over, Valenzuela turned to one of his teammates and said
That’s great, now maybe we’ll see another no-hitter.
He really did say that. By this point in his career though, Fernando was reaching the end. He had lost five of his last six starts, and it was very sad watching “El Torro” being roughed up. On this day however Valenzuela was flawless, and the ghosts of Fernandomania past would rise up again at Chavez Ravine.
The Dodgers jumped out in front early off of opposing starter Jose DeLeon. The Dodgers scored a run in the first inning, on a single, a throwing error, and intentional walk, and a Hubie Brooks Sac fly. The Dodgers would add another run in the 5th inning, when Lenny Harris singled, took two bases on a wild pitch, and scored on a suicide squeeze by Stan Javier. Hubie Brooks leads off the 6th inning with a solo home run. Fernando would start a scoring rally him self with a single, and scored a run in the bottom of the 7th inning. He was always known as a good hitting pitcher. The Dodgers would extend the lead to 6-0, when Juan Samuel would homer in the 8th inning.
Valenzuela would only allow four base-runners all night. There was three walks, and one error. He would whiff seven Cardinals that night, and started to tire later in the game. In the top of the 7th, Valenzuela allowed consecutive walks to former Dodger Pedro Guerrero, and Todd Zeile, who would become a Dodger later on. Valenzuela would get out of it by retiring Terry Pendleton and Jose Oquendo.
Here is Some interesting tidbits about that night. First, this was the only time in major league history, to have two no-hitters thrown on the same night. This was also the Dodger’s first no-hitter since Jerry Reuss in 1980. Ironically, it was Reuss who Valenzuela was filling in for on opening day of 1981. While this was Fernando’s only no-hitter, he had actually thrown 12 two-hitters. This was the first time Valenzuela had beaten the Cardinals in over two years.
As each out was recorded, the crowd could feel it in the air. Something special was happening that game. It wasn’t just the fact that there was a no-hitter being throw, it was because each out brought back another memory of Fernandomania, it was if each Dodger fan was reliving Fernandomania that night. As each out was recorded, the crowd sensed it too.
Move along to the top of the 8th. Valenzuela sets the Cardinals down in order, whiffing Ozzie Smith in the process. Valenzuela led off the 9th inning, by whiffing Vince Coleman on a called third strike. After Valenzuela walked Willie Mcgee, he was in trouble. On an 0-2 count, former Dodger Pedro Guerrero hit a sharp line drive up the middle. Fernando was indeed in trouble.
“Do you think if I don’t touch that ball, it goes through for a single?” Valenzuela asked afterward. “Whoooa. I think it does. I think I don’t touch it, I’m in trouble.
Fernando was just able to stick his glove down and deflect the ball over to second base. Juan Samuel was there to touch the bag at second base for one out, and then double up Guerrero at first base, as the game ended on a double play. What a day to celebrate your birthday huh? Yes it was Pedro Guerrero’s birthday that night. However the night belonged to Fernando Valenzuela.
Fernando didn’t jump up and down, he merly put his hands up by his shoulders and hugged catcher Mike Scioscia on the mound. 38,543 Dodger fans witnessed one of the greatest games at Dodger Stadium ever. Valenzuela embodied the Dodger spirit, of hard work, perseverance, and tradition. He was an example to anyone who has ever grown up poor, or had nothing when they were kids. It is a story you can tell your kids. You see son, it doesn’t matter where your from, or how poor you grew up, you can do anything if you work hard, you can be just like Fernando.
In reality, the game was actually quite somber in a way. The entire night was tinged with nostalgia, joy, and sadness. Dodger fans were sad because they all knew this night would be Fernando Valenzuela’s last hurrah in a Dodger uniform. They were right. Valenzuela finished the 1990 season with a 13-13 record, and then was released by the Dodgers.
“If you have a Sombrero, throw it to the sky!”~Vin Scully
Valenzuela would go on to pitch for five more teams, before retiring from the Major Leagues in 1997. He would later become a radio broadcaster for the Dodgers Spanish radio network. This was perhaps the greatest and saddest moment in Dodger Stadium history. What an amazing way for one of the most beloved Dodgers of all time to end his Dodger career. While the Dodgers never officially retired Fernando’s number of 34, the Dodger’s clubhouse manager has kept his number out of use in respect for Fernando. I can’t imagine anyone ever being worthy enough to wear number 34 again.