For decades, Fernando Valenzuela’s No. 34 jersey number was unofficially retired by Dodgers players and coaches in a sign of respect for the legendary Mexican pitcher.
On Friday night, the Dodgers finally made it official.
Valenzuela’s number was formally retired by the team during a pregame ceremony before the Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies 6-1 at Dodger Stadium.
Read more: The Dodgers have retired Fernando Valenzuela’s number. Does he have a path to Cooperstown?
“It never crossed my mind that this would ever happen,” Valenzuela said before the ceremony. “Like being in the World Series my rookie year, I never thought that would happen. I didn’t think this would happen, because first of all you have to be in Cooperstown. It really caught me by surprise. It’s hard to put into words what this means.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts weighed in on the significance of Valenzuela’s accomplishments as a player and cultural icon during his 11 seasons in Dodger blue.
“Fernando’s legacy, his impact, is going to last forever,” Roberts said. “It’s lasted such a long time, not only for the Dodgers but all of Major League Baseball. He’s been an inspiration for many people. Just to be able to break barriers and to be so humble while doing it.”
Will the Dodgers see a player quite like Valenzuela again? Roberts isn’t sure “Fernandomania” will ever be replicated.
“I think it was so unique,” Roberts said. “It was sort of the perfect storm with the city of Los Angeles and a lot of people that look like Fernando, how he just came out so successful and so impactful. In other sports there’s players that create buzz, but that’s going to be hard to parallel what he did.”
Los Angeles Times veteran photographer Jason Armond was on hand to capture Valenzuela’s historic number retirement:
Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.