10 Best Major League Baseball Players of the 1980s

5. Fernando Valenzuela


 

Fernando Valenzuela played for the Major Leagues for 17 years, and is best known for his tenure with the Dodgers who he pitched for from 1980 to 1990. He also pitched for five other teams throughout his career.

 

Though Valenzuela came onto the team in 1980, his 1981 season was the first where he saw great success. He was successful, in fact, that he was an integral part of getting the Dodgers to the World Series that year. He was also the only player in the history of Major League Baseball to win both the Cy Young Award and Rookie of the Year in the same year. Also in 1981, he was the recipient of the Silver Slugger Award.

 

Valenzuela was known for his screwball, his charm and the connection he had with the Latino community of Los Angeles. He was a fan favorite throughout the 1980s, and had another excellent year in 1986, when he won 21 games. Unfortunately, Valenzuela was injured during the 1988 season, and though he healed, it had a negative effect on his career, and throughout the 1990s, he was traded from team to team until 1997, when he officially retired.

 

Valenzuela is a member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame and the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He won many awards during his time in the league including being a member of six All-Star teams. Since 2003, Valenzuela has worked as a Spanish commentator for Dodgers baseball.

 

4. Orel Hershiser


 

Orel Hershiser is a former pitcher who played professional baseball for 18 seasons. He was drafted in 1979 by the LA Dodgers, and he played for several years in the minors before making his major league debut in 1983.

 

While Hershiser was with the Dodgers, he was an All-Star three times. His best season was in 1988 when Hershiser set a record by pitching 59 innings in a row without allowing any runs. He also helps to lead the Dodgers to the 1988 World Series, and he was named the MVP of the National League and the MVP of the World Series. Additionally, he also won the Gold Glove Award and Cy Young Award in 1988. Later in his career, Hershiser pitched in two additional World Series and he earned the MVP Award for the America League.

 

Hershiser remained with the Dodgers for 12 seasons, and then played for the Indians, Giants and Mets before once again playing for the Dodgers in his last season. After retiring as a player, he worked as a team executive and coach for the Texas Rangers, and then was an analyst for ESPN and then the Dodgers. Hershiser is also known for playing poker, and he has been playing competitively since 2006. He has played for PokerStars and in the World Series of Poker. He has a tradition of giving a baseball with his autograph to any poker player that eliminates him in a tournament.

 

3. Roger Clemens


 

Roger Clemens played as a pitcher in Major League Baseball for 24 seasons. Over that time, he played for four teams, and he was one of the most well-known and dominant pitchers in the league. Throughout his career, he had 354 wins, an ERA of 3.12 and more than 4,672 strikeouts, which puts him in third place in strikeouts in the history of baseball.

 

Clemens was chosen as an All-Star 11 times, and won the World Series two times. He also won the Cy Young Award seven times, which is the most of any pitcher in the history of the league. He was known for his hard-throwing pitching style, competitive nature and his fierceness, which he often used to intimidate those players who were at bat.

 

Clemens entered the majors in 1984, and he played for the Boston Red Sox for 12 years. One of this best years of the 1980s was 1986 when he was chosen as the All-Star Game MVP, the Most Valuable Player in the American League and was given the Cy Young Award. He also broke an MLB record in 1986 when he struck out 20 batters in only one game.

 

Clemens stayed with the Red Sox until 1996 when he went up to Toronto to play with the Blue Jays, and then was traded to the Yankees for a few years before moving to the Astros. His final year was spent with the Yankees, and he retired in 2008.

 

Though Clemens was an outstanding pitcher, his later career was marred with his involvement in the MLB steroid controversy, and he was accused of lying in front of Congress about his involvement with steroids. After a mistrial and retrial, he was found not guilty in 2012.