There are those who dream they can play on the field at Dodger Stadium and then there are those with other Dodger-related dreams.
Raul Ruiz lived his. By being a member of one of the Dodgers’ free fan clubs and winning the “Want to Broadcast a Dodger Game?” contest, Ruiz called an inning of a Dodger game earlier this season.
“I saw a broadcast promotion and I was like, ‘Sure, why not? What are the chances?'” said Ruiz. “Next thing I got the phone call.”
Ruiz got to broadcast at the same time as Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrín in the same press box.
“I’m trying to fill the shoes of Fernando, Vinny, Pepe and Jaime, Rick, Charley. It’s just a dream come true,” said Ruiz.
This was the first of six entry periods for the contest. Each winner receives tickets to that day’s game and gets to call an inning. Those broadcasts are then put up for a vote on each of the four fan club pages on Dodgers.com with there ultimately being a grand-prize winner. The winner will be determined from a finalist round in September and they will receive four Field Level tickets to a game and make a guest appearance on DodgerTalk with Ken Levine and Josh Suchon.
Ruiz, a little nervous, said he felt like calling a game was over his head. But it was also something beyond his imagination.
“It’s pretty much a dream come true right now,” he said.
The situation looked dire on Oct. 23, 1981. The Dodgers trailed the World Series 2-0 to their rivals, the New York Yankees. For Game 3 the venue had shifted to Dodger Stadium, and on the hill was Fernando Valenzuela, the rookie sensation who with the flip of his screwball, created the phenomenon called Fernandomania.
But for the first three innings he hardly resembled the 20-year-old wunderkind who almost magically won his first eight starts and would go on to be named that year’s NL Cy Young winner. The Yankees scored four runs in the first three innings to take a 4-3 lead, and it looked like Valenzuela might be headed for an early shower.
Then almost as quickly as you could say, “El Toro” (Valenzuela’s nickname), the left-hander found his rhythm and became his dominant self. He allowed just three hits the rest of the way and the Dodgers came back to take the lead. When Valenzuela got Lou Piniella to flail away at his final pitch, the momentum had clearly shifted to the Dodgers, who would then rip off three more straight victories to take the World Series in the 11th time these two teams met.
In the euphoria that was Dodger Stadium that day, Dodger Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully summed it up best when he said, “This was not the best Fernando game. It was his finest.”
Valenzuela recalls that game quite clearly.
“It wasn’t a dominant game,” said Valenzuela. “It was a tough game. I had to work hard. Playing against the Yankees at their best was difficult. It was a battle to win that game, but I had the confidence that I would regain my form and try to come out ahead and win.”