Fernando Valenzuela, the young Mexican left-hander of the Los Angeles Dodgers who captured the hearts of baseball fans everywhere, has been named winner of the 1981 National League Cy Young Award. He is the first rookie to win the honor in either league since it was established in 1956.
Valenzuela edged three-time former winner Tom Seaver of Cincinnati in unusually close balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Each had the same number of first-and third place votes, but the Dodger southpaw got one more second place vote to win out with 70 points to 67. Philadelphia's Steve Carlton, another three-time winner, was third and Nolan Ryan of Houston fourth.
Valenzuela reeled off eight straight victories at the start of the season and drew large crowds all around the circuit. He finished with a 13-7 record and a 2 .48 earned run average, and led the league with eight shutouts and 180 strikeouts in 192 innings.
Valenzuela also won the pennant-clinching game over Montreal and launched the Dodgers on the road to their World Series victory by winning the all-important third game after the New York Yankees had taken the first two. These efforts had no bearing, however, on the Cy Young Award, which is for regular season achievements only and is voted on before the playoffs begin.