Dodgers: First Fernandomania, Now Puigmania
As I advanced through the press gate at Dodger Stadium Sunday morning I knew the day was going to be special.
I often have a brief chat with radio broadcaster Fernando Valenzuela, who created Fernandomania with his spectacular debut 33 years ago.
And I knew the Dodgers’ latest phenom, Yasiel Puig, would be adding another chapter to his remarkable first week in the major leagues.
Before the game I discussed Puig with Vin Scully.
I asked if Puigmania reminds him of Fernandomania.
“One week is a little short for a mania,” the Hall of Fame broadcaster replied. “But, already the crowd anticipates everything he does.
“There are similarities, like the way both immediately captivated the fans. But there’s a difference because one was a pitcher and the other is an everyday player.
“When we went on the road there would be a three-game series any maybe Fernando wouldn’t pitch. But since Puig plays every day he has an advantage there.”
Scully was asked if he gets a boost from the crowd’s anticipation.
“Sure, I feel it and know it’s an important moment,” he said.
A similarity is that both came from foreign countries and were unknown to the Dodgers’ fan base.
Valenzuela came from Mexico. Puig has emerged from Cuba.
In Sunday’s game, which the Dodgers lost to the Atlanta Braves, 8-1, Puig had a double and two singles.
He completed his first week with 13 hits in 28 at-bats for a .464 average. He hit four home runs and had 10 RBI. One homer was a grand slam.
He also made a throw from deep right field to first base against the San Diego Padres that resulted in a game-ending double play.
How good can he be?
“He’s obviously a good player,” Atlanta announcer and former Dodger great Don Sutton told me. “I compare him to Richie Allen.
‘Most people remember Allen for his hitting but he was really fast too.”
It was another highlight of the day for me to see Sutton, who I covered during his pitching days with the Dodgers when he became the team’s all-time leader in wins.
He greeted me the same way he has ever since I’ve known him – “How are you doing, Chort ribs?”
After Sunday’s game the Braves took a bus ride to San Diego to continue their season against the Padres. And the Dodgers stayed home to play three games against the first place Arizona DiamondBacks.
Before the game Puig was named National League Player of the Week. Manager Don Mattingly then moved Puig from leadoff to cleanup hitter. Puig singled in his first two at-bats and had another hit, raising his average to .500 but the Dodgers lost, 5-4.
Valenzuela has some advice for Puig.
“Just have fun and play your game. Don’t think much about the crazy things going on around you.”