The Los Angeles Dodgers announced on Saturday that they'll retire the No. 34 jersey worn by left-hander Fernando Valenzuela as part of a three-day celebration over the summer. Valenzuela will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor on Friday, Aug. 11; the Dodgers will then offer Valenzuela-themed promotional giveaways on Aug. 12 and 13, all in conjunction with a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies.
"To be a part of the group that includes so many legends is a great honor," Valenzuela said in a statement. "But also for the fans -- the support they've given me as a player and working for the Dodgers, this is also for them. I'm happy for all the fans and all the people who have followed my career. They're going to be very excited to know that my No. 34 is being retired."
Valenzuela, 62, pitched in parts of 17 big-league seasons, the most acclaimed of which came as a member of the Dodgers organization. Anyone familiar with his story knows that he did his best work out of the gate. He made his debut as a 19-year-old in 1980 and would accumulate 17 scoreless innings in relief. The following spring, he served as the Dodgers' Opening Day starter following an injury to Jerry Reuss. From there, a legend was born.
Valenzuela became the first player in Major League Baseball history to win the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards in the same season. Through April alone, he started five times and notched four shutouts (in the other start, he allowed one run in a complete game victory). Valenzuela would eventually allow runs to be scored at a more frequent pace, ending the season with a 2.48 ERA (135 ERA+) in 192 innings. The Dodgers would go on to win the World Series that fall, with Valenzuela sporting a 2.21 ERA across five playoff starts.
Including that 1981 season, Valenzuela would make six consecutive All-Star Game appearances. He would finish in the top five of Cy Young Award voting on three other occasions, including second place in 1986. After that, he would never again make an All-Star Game or receive award consideration.
Rather, Valenzuela would begin a descent that eventually saw him released in spring training of 1991. In his final five seasons with the Dodgers, he posted a 4.05 ERA (91 ERA+) while averaging 30 starts per pop. For his Dodgers career, he ended up with a 107 ERA+ and 33 Wins Above Replacement.
Valenzuela would later pitch for the San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, California Angels, and Baltimore Orioles. He seldom enjoyed the same level of success he had achieved in Los Angeles, however, and he finished his career with marks that include 173 wins, a 3.54 ERA (104 ERA+), and 37.4 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference's calculations.
Valenzuela was a six-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner. In other words, he made about as big of an impact as a player could without meeting the standards for the Hall of Fame.
Valenzuela's 34 will become the 12th number retired by the Dodgers franchise, joining Pee Wee Reese (1), Tommy Lasorda (2), Duke Snider (4), Gil Hodges (14), Jim Gilliam (19), Don Sutton (20), Walter Alston (24), Sandy Koufax (32), Roy Campanella (39), Jackie Robinson (42), and Don Drysdale (53). The Dodgers also honor broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrín in their Ring of Honor.