Greatest Underdogs in Sports History

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Greatest Underdogs in Sports History

In honor of Linsanity—Jeremy Lin and nine more zero-to-hero athletes.
Before there was Linsanity, there was Fernandomania. Hailing from Navajoa, Mexico, Fernando Valenzuela is a unique underdog in that it wasn’t about his talent, but rather, that he came out of nowhere (similar to a certain New York-area point guard). After playing in Mexican leagues as a teen, Valenzuela was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1979, and quickly thrived in the franchise’s minor league system.

In his first full season in 1981, Valenzuela started the first game of the season and went on to dominate the National League like few pitchers ever have. All the while, Valenzuela became a cultural icon for the Los Angeles Latino community, namely Mexican Americans, and Fernandomania soon swept the nation. Valenzuela became the first player in MLB history to win the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award in the same season, and to top things off, the Dodgers went on to win the '81 World Series.

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