For decades, Fernando Valenzuela’s #34 jersey number was unofficially retired by Dodgers players and coaches out of respect for the legendary Mexican pitcher.
On Friday night, the Dodgers finally made it official.
Valenzuela’s number was officially retired by the team during a pregame ceremony before the Dodgers played the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium.
“It never occurred to me that something like this would ever happen,” Valenzuela said ahead of the ceremony. “When I was in the World Series my rookie year, I never thought this would happen. I didn’t think that would happen because first of all you have to be in Cooperstown. It really surprised me. It’s hard to put into words what that means.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts spoke about the importance of Valenzuela’s achievements as a player and cultural icon during his 11 seasons in Dodger Blue.
“Fernando’s legacy, his influence will last forever,” Roberts said. “It’s taken so long, not just for the Dodgers, but for all of Major League Baseball. He was an inspiration to many people. Just being able to break down barriers and being so humble about it.”
Will the Dodgers see a player like Valenzuela again? Roberts is unsure if Fernandomania will ever be repeated.
“I think it was so unique,” Roberts said. “It was kind of the perfect storm with the city of Los Angeles and a lot of people who look like Fernando, how he just came out of it so successfully and so influential. In other sports there are players who cause a stir, but that’s going to be hard to compare to what he did.”
Veteran Los Angeles Times photographer Jason Armond was on the field to capture Valenzuela’s historic retirement:
Times contributor Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.