We were recently contacted by Kate Coe, a footage researcher on an ESPN project about Fernando Valenzuela, directed by Cruz Angeles. Kate the Footage Ninja writes:
I'm wondering if you've got any advice for some interesting sources for maybe home movies/videos of LA Latino community, etc. during the 80s, esp. the Fernandomania era.
We're good with the Dodgers, MLB, and all the usual news archives, but I'm looking for rather more personal stuff.
And if you know of anyone who was inspired as a teenager or a kid by him, I know the director is looking for stories, interviews, and anecdotes. For example--I've found a guy in LA who remembers his entire 5th grade class showing up at school in blue batting helmets, (he's got pictures, which is great.)
What I remember the most about Fernando is how he was rolling in 1981--his RoY award-winning year--when the baseball strike happened. Los Angelenos were captivated by Fernandomania, since he hit the sports news like a whirlwind out of nowhere, but what I found most intriguing was the fact that he always looked skyward during this windup. Photo after photo would show Fernando looking up just as he was about to deliver his pitch, and I often wondered, about what was he thinking? Was he praying or looking for divine assistance? Was he concentrating? Or was this just a tic? As an 11-year-old kid, I remember going out to the backyard to try that technique myself. But my pitches never ended up as screwballs darting inside at the last moment. Mine just went into the backyard hedges.
I also recall that during the 1981 season I started clipping pictures out of the LAT and Sports Illustrated to make a "scrapbook" of the key baseball stories that year. Fernandomania had many pages in my scrapbook, which were all bound in one of those old-style sticky-pages-under-peel-back-acetate protectors that they don't even make anymore since they ruin your pictures (and probably cause asbestos-like symptoms, for all I know). But the worst part is--and this is honest--the last page in this scrapbook lists that the teams and players went on strike mid-way through the season...and I never finished the book (despite the fact that the Dodgers won a World Championship that year). That was an easy way for MLB to ruin an 11-year-old kid's summer.
Great stuff, Sax — I wish my memory were that sharp. So how about it, SoSG readers? We know many of you were also wide-eyed kids in the early eighties. Post stories of your Fernando fandom in the comments, or feel free to email us. And help a Footage Ninja out.
photo by Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated