Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela said on Wednesday, in an interview with ESPNDeportes.com, that the no-hitter he threw on June 29, 1990, will remain forever in his memory, immortalized by the legendary Vin Scully's play-by-play on the game. Now, as Scully's retirement and final game nears, the Mexican pitcher who inspired the call also spoke on how Scully inspired him.
"Maybe I'll forget who my last out was, or how many walks I gave up in my career, but his quote, 'If anyone has a sombrero, throw it to the sky,' it's something I'll never forget. That will remain forever." That call was recently voted by fans as No. 5 in the top 20 greatest moments in Vin Scully's 67 years as the voice of the Dodgers.
"It's something that comes from someone who has great experience calling baseball. To hear it from someone like him, it's a really nice memory," added the "Bull of Etchohuaquila," who currently serves as a color analyst on Spanish-language telecasts of Dodgers games.
During "Fernandomania," the name given to the phenomenon that was sparked by Valenzuela's arrival in the major leagues with the Dodgers in 1980, the number of Hispanic fans attending Los Angeles games in Chavez Ravine is estimated to have soared from 8 to 40 percent, according to the Dodgers Spanish-language broadcaster for the past 58 years, Ecuadorian Jaime Jarrín.
"That's great, isn't it? I think our Mexican and Hispanic community has always liked baseball. And that increase is a positive thing for the sport. And if what I did in my career could contribute in any way, that's something that makes me feel very happy. People follow baseball and it's a great honor for me to know that we have more Spanish-speaking fans of the Dodgers and of baseball in general," Valenzuela said.
The former pitcher also admitted that he had little contact with Vin Scully during his early days in the major leagues.
"I remember that, in the beginning, I spent most of my time on the field and I didn't have chance to get to know him more. Over time, once I had established myself with the Dodgers, I understood that he was greatly admired, not only in Los Angeles, but by everyone involved in baseball."
The relationship actually deepened when Valenzuela retired.
"Then, when I started this stage of my career as a broadcaster and analyst for Dodgers games in 2003, I had a really nice experience. He was there at the press conference where they announced my new roles on the team, and that's something I will never forget."
Scully didn't push any advice on Valenzuela's new career path, however.
"I learned some things from him, the way he carried himself, because you can always follow the example of someone so important, with his career behind the microphone," Valenzuela said. "Seeing and hearing him calling games day in, day out, and always trying to do his job the best he can, is something to be admired and that's enough to have learned from him, without him having to give me any advice. Also, always seeing him around and being able to greet him here in the press box is very nice. It's a great honor."
Even the great Scully may have had trouble overcoming the language gap in Valenzuela's playing days, since he wasn't pressed by the broadcaster for details about his life.
"Actually, no. That's something I missed in my early days in the majors," Valenzuela said. "And now, looking back, I think it would have been interesting if there had been some kind of conversation."