On Nov. 11, 1981, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela became the first rookie to ever win the Cy Young Award, edging Tom Seaver of the Cincinnati Reds.
Valenzuela additionally was named 1981 National League Rookie of the Year and took home a Silver Slugger. Mike Piazza, Corey Seager and Valenzuela are the only Dodgers to win Rookie of the Year and a Silver Slugger Award in the same season.
Although the southpaw made his debut with the Dodgers in 1980, it wasn’t until the following year that he became a phenomenon. The 20-year-old started Opening Day of the 1981 season, which marked the beginning of an impressive streak.
Valenzuela strung together eight consecutive victories (five shutouts) to start the season, which fell one shy of tying Dave Ferris’ MLB record for most starts in a row won by a rookie. Valenzuela pitched to a 0.50 ERA and had 68 strikeouts during his impressive stretch.
He went on to finish the season 13-7 with a 2.48 ERA, 11 complete games, eight shoutouts and led all pitchers with 180 strikeouts. Over 11 seasons with the Dodgers, Valenzuela went 141-116 with a 3.31 ERA.
In his 17-year Major League career Valenzuela won 173 games and yielded a 3.54 ERA. He was a six-time All-Star and part two World Series teams during his tenure with the Dodgers, and was inducted into the Mexican baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
Valenzuela retired from baseball in 1997 and has spent the past 16 years as a Spanish-language color commentator for the Dodgers.
In November 2018, Valenzuela was among the players named to the inaugural “Legends of Dodger Baseball” class, receiving the honor along with Don Newcombe and Steve Garvey.
Dodgers retire no. 34 for Fernadndo Valenzuela
For all he has accomplished and meant to not only the organization but city as a whole, Valenzuela’s No. 34 was retired during the 2023 season by the Dodgers. The team had an unofficial policy of only doing so for players in the Hall of Fame, but there have were endless calls to make an exception for Valenzuela.
The Dodgers previously did so with Jim Gilliam, whose No. 19 was retired two days after his sudden death in 1978.
Valenzuela has said he understood the franchise’s stance, but he was grateful for the organization for breaking their policy for him.
Have you subscribed to the Dodger Blue YouTube channel? Be sure to ring the notification bell to watch player interviews, participate in shows and giveaways, and more!