Saturday, April 25, 2009

Where's Fernando's Penmanship?

Biggest 'Manias' from the 1980s:

3) Wrestlemania
2) Hulk-a-mania

 1) Fernando Mania

Here's the thing, though. Wrestlemania just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Hulk-a-mania will never die, brutha. But Fernando Mania - it seems to have disappeared.

Fernando Valenzuela was one of baseball's biggest stars in the early part of the 1980s. Before he was old enough to legally buy a beer and drop a nickel in a Vegas slot machine he'd already won the National League Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards. And that was in his first full season. For the next half-a-decade he was one of the game's brightest stars. With his excentirc windup and knack for the strike out, Valenzuela captured the imagination of the game's fans.

After setting a career-high with 21 wins in 1986, Valenzuela started his decline from superstar to falling star. Although he remained a fan favourite, he was never his dominant self for any length of time. Yet he managed to hang on, going from team to team and finding a way to stay in the Majors before being released one last time in 1997 by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Valenzuela's legacy today is one of being one of the game's ultimate fan favorites. Yet, when it comes to cardboard, he's hardly around. Despite the fact that we're in an age of nostalgia in the hobby, Fernando Mania is still something of a dot on a vast horizon. He's appeared on about 50 cards since 2000. While that might seem like a lot, when you think about all the parallels and inserts that come in modern sets, it's barely a blip. If you narrow it down further to premium "hits," the numbers dwindle further. While there's a handful of game-used bat cards, Valenzuela has a grand total of one certified autograph card. It's found in 2005 Sweet Spot Classics Baseball. With autographs in 2007 and 2009 Upper Deck Spectrum, friggin' Corey Feldman from The Goonies has more autographed cards inserted in baseball products.

While Joe Blanton, Andre Ethier, Noah Lowry and Tom Gorzelanny continue to have autograph after autograph released, this 80s icon remains one of the few names from the past that hasn't been milked. The reasons for the lack of Valenzuela autographs can only be specualted. Perhaps he's not a fan of signing things, maybe he charges too much, maybe he hates the picture Upper Deck used on his 2005 card, or maybe he's disappeared from the public radar. Who knows. There's currently just one of the Valenzuela autographs listed on eBay and it's got a Buy it Now price of more than $100. I think it's time Fernando Mania gets a little kick in the pants so getting an autograph can be a little more affordable.

1 comment:

zman40 said...

From what I have heard and read, Fernando is still a great signer through the mail. I think that the card companies have just forgot about him.