Magazine article Information Today

Crusty Memories of Fernandomania and a Famous Chicken

Magazine article Information Today

Crusty Memories of Fernandomania and a Famous Chicken

Article excerpt

A recent call from a movie researcher in California triggered some crusty old memories for your Field Correspondent, who seems to be experiencing more mental crustiness all the ... (what's the phrase?) ... oh, yeah, all the time.

This one dates from a warm summer evening in 1980 on the west side of San Antonio. The combined attraction that night was the San Diego Chicken and a stellar young pitcher at V.J. Keefe Field, home of the Double-? San Antonio Dodgers (currently known as the Missions) of the Texas League.

We don't remember who the foils for the Dodgers were or who the straight men were for the chicken who went on to become simply Famous (www. famous

But we do remember the pitcher: Fernando Valenzuela, who was 1 year away from launching "Fernandomania" with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the major leagues. In summer 1980, we had our own little "mania" in San Antonio. After a slow start, the chunky left-hander was all but unbeatable, leading his team to the Texas League championship series. (As was the case, with one exception in 2 decades, the Dodgers snatched defeat from San Antonio's jaws of victory by promoting Valenzuela to the majors before the playoff series ended.)

There was something right about Valenzuela, and it wasn't just that goofylooking windup (he appeared to look straight up, as if checking the weather forecast, in the middle of it) or his decidedly nonathletic build (he was nicknamed el toro, the bull, because he appeared to be as big around as one).

It was his baseball smarts, his tenacity, and his personality that people liked.

That's why he quickly wound up with endorsements, some of which have mercifully been archived online. Among them were a Spanish commercial for Kellogg's Corn Flakes ( watch?v=BMKZJUcZbOg), in which he appears as if by magic in the middle of a family's breakfast picnic. Yes, a breakfast picnic. We'll translate the highlights:

"Would you like to have breakfast with us? It's Kellogg's Corn Flakes!" the father asks Valenzuela, who is wearing a Dodgers cap and jacket (just to make sure the kids, their dad, and their mom recognized him).

"Of course," Valenzuela says. "It's my favorite cereal."

And then, after a little jingle in Spanish and a bite of the flakes, he adds stiffly, "It's like winning a championship."

OK, it's not exactly destined for the advertising hall of fame with cat herding and Mr. …

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