Fernando Valenzuela: Dodgers Retiring Jersey Number Is ‘Best Feeling’

After decades of being regarded as one of the essential figures in Los Angeles Dodgers franchise history, Fernando Valenzuela is set to have his iconic No. 34 finally retired.

Announced by team president and CEO Stan Kasten during 2023 Dodgers FanFest, Valenzuela’s legacy is set to be permanently enshrined as part of a three-day “Fernandomania” weekend from August 11-13 when the Colorado Rockies are in town. Valenzuela is due to become the 12th player in Dodgers history to have his number retired.

“When they told me, it caught me by surprise,” Valenzuela said after the announcement at Dodger Stadium. “Then I realized, well, I’ve been waiting for this and now it happened. It’s the best feeling.”

Pitching 11 seasons for the Dodgers, the left-hander took the league and franchise by storm during a breakout 1981 campaign.

In addition to becoming the first player ever to win both Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award in the same season, honors earned en route to helping the Dodgers capture a World Series, he finished with a 2.48 ERA in 25 starts while leading all of Major League Baseball in shutouts (eight) and strikeouts (180).

Valenzuela’s 11 complete games and 192.1 innings pitched that season additionally led the National League.

One of the most reliable members in the long line of historic franchise pitchers, Valenzuela delivered eight seasons of 30 or more starts between 1980 and 1990, six of those eight featuring more than 250 innings pitched. His ERA was under 3.50 for six seasons in the same stretch.

A seemingly prevalent item on the wishlist of countless Dodgers fans, the exciting announcement was more than well-received.

“All the fans would ask me when are they going to retire it,” said the former six-time All-Star. “I would say, ‘I don’t know. It’s not in my hands.’”

Despite the Dodgers unofficial policy of not retiring the number of individuals who aren’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s understandable why they would make an exception for Valenzuela.

Since his retirement, no one has worn Valenzuela’s No. 34 anyhow, and he additionally was a member of the franchise’s inaugural “Legends of Dodgers Baseball” class in 2018.

Along with being one of the most decorated pitchers in the history of the storied franchise, Valenzuela also was instrumental in bringing in members of the Mexican population into the Dodgers fanbase.

“It means a lot to me and my family, of course to the Dodgers, and all the fans,” he said. “They don’t like to be in the spotlight, but my daughters came up (on stage) and they enjoyed it. I think it’s a good moment for them also.

“I think it’s going to be great. I’ve never been in this kind of situation. I’ve had bases loaded, but nothing like that. It’s going to be exciting and I’ll probably be thinking, ‘This happened to me?’ It’s going to be a great feeling.”

Stan Kasten surprised Fernando Valenzuela with jersey retirement

While there was much to do at Dodgers FanFest on Saturday, perhaps nothing was more noteworthy than the announcement of Valenzuela’s number retirement.

Before the official announcement, however, the Dodgers privately shared the news with the icon in a video they featured on their Twitter account.

“The one question that I continuously get asked, more than anything else, is about retiring Fernando Valenzuela’s number,” said Kasten. “The citywide call by our fans to honor him is truly remarkable.”

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