The Fan and Fernando

I like to think I was destined to be a lifelong Dodger fan. I was born just before Fernando “El Toro” Valenzuela was called up to the majors in September 1980. Of course, I don’t remember that. Nor do I remember Fernando Mania and his awesome 1981 season which resulted Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards. In fact, I really don’t remember much about Fernando during his prime years except for listening to Jaime Jarrín announce over the radio, “¡Lo ponchó!”

Fernando made many people fans… or at least increased their love for the Dodgers. Still, I can’t say Fernando made me a fan. My dad gets all the credit for that.

Dad became a Dodger fan as soon as he got to LA in 1962 (or was it ’63?). He tells us stories of going to games to see Sandy Koufax pitch and of playing stickball in the street. Of course when he got married and had children, he enrolled us in Little League. Even though he worked a lot, he still had time to teach me how to throw, catch, and a proper batting stance. He also taught me what it meant to be a fan.

In the summer of 1988, my family took a trip to Lake Tahoe. Dad meticulously packed bags of clothes, boxes of food, a guitar, boombox, beach chairs, umbrellas, towels, inflatable raft and water toys in our maroon van. I squeezed myself in the back with my three siblings, coloring book and waxy crayons on my lap.

We pulled up to the parking kiosk at the beach/lake shore. The parking attendant eyed my dad’s familiar LA Dodgers hat fit snugly over his shaggy black hair.

“You a fan?”

“I’m wearing the hat, aren’t I?” Dad responded and handed the attendant some money.

“I guess so,” said the attendant as he handed dad his change with the parking ticket.

Dad took the ticket and steered the van toward a spot close to the beach. The metiche in me was curious and confused.

I piped up, “Dad, why did he call you a fan? Did he mean fan, like un abanico?”

“No. A fan is someone who really likes a team. He asked if I was a fan because I’m wearing my Dodgers cap.”

“Oh. I like the Dodgers. Does that mean I’m a fan?”

“Yup! You better be!”

Go Dodgers!

Opening Day 1986 photo from the Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library. Copyright Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library. Photo used under a Creative Commons license.

7 thoughts on “The Fan and Fernando

  1. God bless the chicano dad outdoor adventure trips,I get a warm feeling every time I get to the snow in Angeles forest and there are kids running around in their long sleeved pajamas. Thanks for a good post, it made me remember good times.

    Jose and Gloria Romero (my compa’s parents) used to rock familia trips that I now replicate with my own kids. Someone should do a post on all time great Eastlos chicano family trips locations. My first nominees are Azusa canyon and marano beach, how about Solvang and newport beach?

  2. “My first nominees are Azusa canyon and marano beach, how about Solvang and newport beach?”

    So funny, I was actually thinking of doing a post on Azusa Canyon and Marrano Beach but had forgotten until you mentioned it! Thanks!
    Oh, we went to Solvang too…

    Nice post Cindy! Too bad about the game tonight.

  3. Chimatli, I hope you do make that post, I know I am too busy/tired to do one myself (hence the lack of new topics I have churned out) and it would be great. And solvang freaken ROCKS! It’s all about abelskeevers, small figurines and the forced Santa Maria/Bakersfield end of trip detour to see family that we do about 3-4 times a year. There is also a great place called nojoqui falls about 20 minutes SE of solvang that is amazing.

    One of the big supirsers for me is how brown newport beach is now (the patrons at least). My best friends family trips were my only means of vacation as a kid, and I remember it being so white down there and getting stares, now paisas be walking up and down the beach selling umbrellas and boogie boards, it’s beautiful!

    How about chilao up the 2 in the mountains, the big cross city trip to Venice/SM (big shit for us eastsiders), bolsa chica beach, ports o call, that little village in marina del rey, those rocks up the 14 that are in movies, griffith park, eaton canyon, wrightwood, and the san diego/puerto nuevo/tj extravaganza? Im a total cholito-turned-nature dad, and have embraced the brown dad trip full on (or actually coordinated by mama), I think nature is a necessity for urban kids. Ive also heard yosemite is a big one (for more vacation weathered chicanos, its the big move up, and then you hit Lake Tahoe/ Mammoth if your at that level) as well as fishing in havasu.

    Anyways, I dragged my kids around the stadium to take a pic next to column with a fernando during our last doyers game. Being a kid born in ’79, my earliest memories involve intense fernandomania, I even remember how he’d play tennis at evergreen rec center back inthe day. when I saw the mural on susnset of fernando torn down to make way for those condos my heart ached like I was a teen getting my heart broken.

  4. Fernando V. used to live across the street from Fresno Park in Boyle Heights and I saw him once at dusk sitting on the steps to his place (i think it was the house of an uncle or something) just tossing a baseball, seemingly contemplating things all alone. This was at the height of his popularity, but people still seemed to give him his space.

    Legg Lake Weekends! And visiting the cow farms in Azusa!

  5. By marrano beach do you mean the rio hondo wash? Do people still go there? There’s some plans for increased development to “fix up” that area, but I get the impression that they’re going to pave over too much, and make it too auto-accessible, and ruin the potential fun kids can have there.

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