For some reason, this card always reminds me of the “Hand of God.” Or at least the image of Diego Maradona I have in my head, as he’s frozen in time in the air hovering to strike the ball.
Valenzuela similarly is looking to the heavens, or at least the baseball gods. Perhaps he’s trying to remember what grip he needs to throw his two-seamer, or merely trying to remember that he is, indeed, throwing a two-seamer.
Of course, whatever Valenzuela threw in ‘81 was gold. Still, he was barely the strike-out king, as Steve Carlton bested him in K/9 rate but fell one K short of Fernandomania.
Did he deserve the Cy Young over Carlton? Probably not, but Carlton got enough accolades in his career to make-up for that slight.
It’s hard to believe, but that was likely Valenzuela’s third or fourth best season, as, clearly, his 85 & 86 campaigns were historic. From 85-86, Valenzuela averaged 271 IPs, a 2.79 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 225 K’s. Both years he was bested by some amazing performances (Mike Scott & Dwight Gooden secured Cy Young trophies).
Still, you can never take the flair away from Valenzuela.