In the summer of 1981, I was a 14-year-old 3rd baseman and pitcher for the immortal “Tucker’s Big Star”13-14 age group baseball team. A grocery store sponsored baseball team that featured orange uniforms with white pinstripe…yea they were hideous.
Although I grew up in Tennessee we all knew Fernando Venezuela. He was huge in the baseball world and his popularity was growing with the masses that summer. He was a 20-year-old Mexican pitcher for the Dodgers. Being a Dodger fan I was rooting for him. The 1981 MLB baseball season was played in two parts. An MLB strike started on June 12 and play wasn’t resumed until August 19th.
It was a split season and playoffs had an extra round. It was my favorite Dodger team and they finally beat the Yankees with the help of Fernando. Fernando came out of nowhere. He was born in Navojoa Mexico and discovered by a scout named Mike Brito. He came close to being signed by the New York Yankees but the Dodgers signed him for 120,000 dollars.
Pitcher Bobby Castillo taught him how to throw the Screwball. A pitch that wasn’t common in the Major Leagues. He started the 1981 season 8–0 with five shutouts and an ERA of 0.50. He ended up with a 13-7 record with a 2.84 ERA that year.
Like the Bird Mark Fidrych a few years before he was a huge draw in every park he pitched in. Unlike the Bird, he enjoyed a 17-year career. He won game 3 in the 1981 World Series. He didn’t have his control or best stuff but he hung on to win. He pitched a ridiculous 146 pitches in the complete-game victory.
Fernando had a good career which probably could have been better if not for overuse. Fernando was worked like the town pump.