The Sixth Beatle

Just watched a fantastic Fernando Valenzuela documentary on ESPN (available  OnDemand for Comcast subscribers). It’s the first of the “30 in 30″ series focusing on baseball that I found compelling. (ANOTHER tribute to the 2004 Red Sox along with some Steinbrenner ass-kissing by overrated documentarian Barbara Kopple!?!)

Director Cruz Angeles tells Valenzuela’s story from the perspective of a Latino kid growing up in L.A. Mexicans mostly resented the Dodgers until Fernando, largely due to the ugly roots of Dodger Stadium. Chavez Ravine was a community founded by Latino immigrants who were forced out by old school eminent domain. That is, the cops showed up with billy clubs then bulldozed their homes.

But Valenzuela changed that perception. Name a famous Mexican before Fernando? I’m talking Brad Pitt-famous, because Fernandomania was not overhyped. His debut in Atlanta, on a Thursday night in May, attracted 26,597 fans, more than the first two games of the Dodgers series combined. That was a huge crowd in those days. (Shockingly, the Braves gave Fernando his first major league ass-kicking, scoring seven runs in 3-2/3 innings. Biff Pocoroba hit second that night and played 3B, BTW.)

It doesn’t get more aberrating than that. El Toro threw 8 shutouts in a 110-game, strike-shortened season. By comparison, Mad Dog never topped five in a season.

Fernando’s greatest legacy? A loyal Latino following for the Dodgers. Visitors to Chavez Ravine  can attest: Fernandomania lingers.

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2 Comments on The Sixth Beatle

  1. I remember that ass kicking in Atlanta like it was yesterday. IIRC, it came up earlier this year when we faced The Strasburg.

  2. rankin' rob // November 10, 2010 at 7:25 am //

    I watched that on ESPN Classic a couple of weeks ago. I had know idea about the Chavez Ravine backstory. I had forgotten how Lasorda burned Fernando out, letting him stay in games until his arm fell off. I thought there were some revealing clips of Lasorda being the heartless bag of pus that he is.

    I was glad to see that Fernando seems to have landed well, doing Dodger Spanish play by play and seeming to enjoy his icon status.

    Who is left to throw the screwball any more?

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