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"Fernando Nation" Falls Just Outside the Strike Zone

Fernando Valenzuela with some friends. (AP Photo/Bruce Rasmussen)
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ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series moves right along with “Fernando Nation” directed by Cruz Angeles, born in Mexico City and raised in South Central Los Angeles who is now based in Brooklyn, NY. While it not only is a portrait of Fernando Valenzuela’s quick rise to the top in 1981, it is perhaps the first document of the social conditions of Latin American community during that time.

Angeles first discusses the plight of the Chavez Ravine residents before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. “You can’t talk about Fernando-Mania without talking about Chavez Ravine,” Angeles said. With interviews with Dolores Huerta, Vice President Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America, J. Gerardo Lopez of La Opinion and other community leaders, Angeles delves into the hurt the Latin community in Los Angeles felt when thinking about the Dodgers and how the Dodgers was essentially a whites-only fanbase.

With Walter O’Malley knowing the potential money to be made from the Latin American community, he always wanted to find the “Mexican Sandy Koufax.” Unfortunately he would never see one in his lifetime, but thanks to scout Mike Brito they finally got one in Fernando Valenzuela.

And unfortunately it is at this point where the documentary goes off the tracks.