When it comes to single seasons being dominated by a single player, Fernandomania in 1981 might just take the cake. Heck, if it weren’t for the baseball strike that ripped apart that campaign, Dogers lefty Fernando Valenzuela and his magical rookie run might be the only thing most of us really remember about the summer of 1981.
And, though, Fernando stuck around a long time and turned in a few other All-Star seasons, fans will always remember 1981 as “his” season.
Fernando’s not alone in that regard — being tagged in memory to a single season.
In fact, did you know there was once another Valenzuela who will be forever linked to a single Major League campaign?
Well, there is … Benny Valenzuela.
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Valenzuela, hailing from Los Mochis, Mexico, spent most of his 20-year professional career at various levels of the Mexican Leagues. In 1954, though, the St. Louis Cardinals selected the young third baseman in the minor league draft, and he began climbing his way through the California and Texas Leagues.
The Cards called Valenzuela to the Majors in April 1958, and he stayed there all season long, collecting three hits and a walk in 15 plate appearances.
In October, St. Louis traded him to the newly-moved San Francisco Giants.
Valenzuela spent three years at Triple-A (and a while at Double-A) for the Giants before moving over the the Mexican minor leagues.
He was done in the Majors.
But he wasn’t forgotten, not in a cardboard sense, anyhow.
In 1966, the sprawling James T. Elder Postcards set captured Valenzuela at #964.
And then, in 1983, hobby legend Larry Fritsch included Valenzuela as card #76 in his One-Year Winners set, a design that hearkened back to 1966 Topps.
But even though Benny Valenzuela seemed to elicit thoughts of 1966 from card makers down the line, the slugger who couldn’t quite power up in the Majors will always be connected to the 1958 Cardinals and the summer they shared together.
Hey, it may not be Fernandomania, but it yielded a couple of baseball cards … how cool is that?