Larry Walker

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Larry Walker
Larry Walker1.jpg
Right fielder
Born: (1966-12-01) December 1, 1966 (age 50)
Maple Ridge, British Columbia
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 16, 1989, for the Montreal Expos
Last MLB appearance
October 2, 2005, for the St. Louis Cardinals
MLB statistics
Batting average .313
Home runs 383
Runs batted in 1,311
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Larry Kenneth Robert Walker (born December 1, 1966) is a Canadian former professional baseball right fielder in Major League Baseball (MLB). During his 17-year career, he played for the Montreal Expos (1989–1994), Colorado Rockies (1995–2004), and St. Louis Cardinals (2004–2005). He has also coached for the Canadian national baseball team since 2009. Widely considered a five-tool talent, Walker stood 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) and weighed 185 pounds (84 kg) as a right-handed thrower and left-handed batter, hitting for both average and power, combined with well above-average speed, defense and throwing. Inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and other Canadian sports halls of fame, he was included as one of Canada's Athletes of the 20th Century in 1999.

Over his playing career, Walker produced a .313 batting average, .400 on-base percentage (OBP), and .565 slugging percentage (SLG) for a 141 adjusted OPS+, and 383 home runs, 1,311 runs batted in (RBI), 2,160 hits, 471 doubles and 230 stolen bases. He contributed 72.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and his SLG ranks 12th all-time. He is one of only 19 hitters in history to accomplish a .300/.400/.500 batting line with at least 5,000 career plate appearances, and one of six whose careers began after 1960. Among right fielders, his 150 assists rank 17th all-time and 40 double plays turned rank ninth. Walker won three National League (NL) batting championships, was a five-time All-Star, won seven Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, a Lou Marsh Trophy, and the 1997 NL Most Valuable Player Award (MVP). Frequent injuries tamped down his performance, as he appeared in 150 or more games in a season just once.

Born in the Greater Vancouver area of British Columbia, Walker had NHL goaltender aspirations as a youth but baseball became the sport of choice. The Expos signed him to play professionally in 1984 in spite of lacking experience, and he made his MLB debut in 1989. By 1992, he became one of the team's leaders, and was an All-Star selection, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner each for the first time. In 1994, he batted .322 and an NL-leading 44 doubles as the Expos raced to the majors' best record, but that year's strike stopped their first serious World Series run. He signed with the Rockies as a free agent after the season, where his greatest productivity and achievements followed.

During a five-year period from 1997 to 2001, Walker won an NL MVP and three batting titles, that, in each instance led the major leagues. His 1997 season was one of the all-round dominant performances in history after leading the league each with 49 home runs, .452 OBP and .720 SLG, while winding up second for the batting title, third with both 46 doubles and 130 RBI, and also stealing 33 bases, registering 12 outfield assists and 9.8 WAR. He became the only player in history reach both a .700 SLG and 30 stolen bases in the same season. In 1999, Walker led the major leagues in all three of each in a .379 batting average, .458 OBP, and .710 SLG; both the batting average and on-base percentage were career bests. He won the batting title for the third time in 2001, and was runner-up again the following year. He missed 375 games from 1996 to 2004 due to injury.

Desiring a trade to a contending team, the Rockies sent Walker to St. Louis in the middle of their 105-win season in 2004 and he made his first World Series appearance. He announced his retirement from playing baseball after Game 6 of the 2005 National League Championship Series. Currently active on the American Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, he has appeared seven times but has not gained election. Following his playing career, Walker has served as a guest instructor for the Cardinals and coached the Canadian national team in three World Baseball Classic (WBC) appearances, among others.

Early life and amateur career[edit]

Born in Maple Ridge, a suburb of Greater Vancouver in British Columbia, to parents of Scottish descent, Larry, Sr., and Mary, Larry Walker had three older brothers − Barry, Carey and Gary. The five men often played together in a fastpitch softball league. Walker grew up playing ice hockey and dreamed of a career in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a goaltender, only playing baseball for fun during the summer. He played hockey and volleyball at Maple Ridge Secondary School; baseball was not offered.[1] He sharpened his skills by blocking shots against friend and future Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely. Brother Carey, also a goaltender, was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens.[1]

At the age of 16, Walker was offered tryouts with Junior A teams in Regina, Saskatchewan, and Kelowna, British Columbia, but was cut from both teams.[2] Other offers Walker received were from Western Hockey League teams, including Swift Current, which he toured. After seeing substandard conditions there, he decided that he no longer wanted to pursue hockey once he arrived at the rink,[1] and subsequently focused his athletic aspirations on baseball.[2]

Because of Canada's short summers, it was more difficult to play baseball outdoors than in the United States. “I’d never seen a forkball, never seen a slider. I didn’t know they existed. I had never really seen a good curveball. In Canada, as a kid, we’d play 10 baseball games a year. Fifteen, tops. Some pitchers had a thing they’d call a spinner, but nothing like this. Baseball just wasn’t big. The weather was against it. Nobody ever played baseball thinking about making the major leagues," recalled Walker. He was not aware of many of the rules.[1]

In 1984, Walker played for the Coquitlam Reds of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League. He was selected to join the Canadian team at the 1984 World Youth Championships in Kindersley, Saskatchewan. At that tournament, he caught the eye of Montreal Expos scouting director Jim Fanning, after hitting a home run with a wooden bat, in contrast to all the other players, who were using metal bats. Fanning signed Walker for $1500 (USD, $3,457.9 today) in spite of his relative lack of experience playing organized baseball.[3][1]

Professional career[edit]

Minor leagues[edit]

Although he could hit fastballs well, Walker was unprepared for the more sophisticated pitches he encountered during his first season as a professional with the Utica Blue Sox and struggled at the plate, finishing with a .223 batting average and two home runs. His first minor league manager, Ken Brett, recalled that "he was just so tough," and marveled at Walker's "outstanding athleticism, freakish hand-eye coordination and mental approach." Walker feared that he would be released, but Expos hitting coach Ralph Rowe successfully lobbied for him to be sent to the Florida Instructional League. With further tutelage, Walker soon developed into one of the Expos' best young prospects, overcoming a serious knee injury along the way.[4]

In his second professional season in 1986, Walker played for two A-level clubs, including the Burlington Expos and West Palm Beach Expos, achieving a breakthrough. His combined totals in 133 games included a .288 average, .397 on-base percentage (OBP), .602 slugging percentage (SLG), 87 runs scored, 19 doubles, 11 triples, 33 home runs, 90 runs batted in (RBI) and 18 stolen bases.[5] Walker caught the eye of his fellow Canadians, and, as a 19-year-old minor leaguer, had acquired an entourage of Canadian reporters. "I know now I can hit the ball. I have a lot of confidence even though I still strike out a lot. I swing at too many bad pitches," Walker remarked. Noted West Palm Beach manager, Felipe Alou, "If he keeps improving the way he has the last 12 months, there`s no telling what he could do. You have a kid with his kind of potential, they don`t last long in the minor leagues."[6] The club clinched the Florida State League South division.[7]

After promotion to Jacksonville Expos of the Southern League in 1987, Walker totaled a .287 average, .383 OBP, .534 SLG, 91 runs, 26 home runs, 24 stolen bases and three times caught stealing. He won his first Tip O'Neill Award that year as the top Canadian baseball player. The Expos moved him up to Indianapolis Indians of the Triple-A International League in 1988. There, he played in 114 games and batted .270 with 68 runs scored, 12 home runs, 36 stolen bases and six times caught stealing.[5]

Montreal Expos[edit]

Major league debut (1989)[edit]

Walker made his debut with the Montreal Expos on August 16, 1989. He walked twice and recorded a single in his first official at bat,[8] off Mike LaCoss of the San Francisco Giants. Walker's first season totals included a .170 batting average, .264 on-base percentage (OBP), and .170 slugging percentage (SLG) in 56 plate appearances.[2] Montreal fans gave him the nickname "Booger."[9]

1990−92 seasons[edit]

Ranked No. 42 on Baseball America’s list of top prospects in advance of the 1990 season, the Expos never optioned back Walker to the minor leagues. Instead, he became their regular right fielder, patrolling an outfield that at times featured Tim Raines and Marquis Grissom, both ultra-fleet basestealers and well-accomplished hitters in their own right, and part of a long line of exceptional Expos outfielders. Walker batted .241 with a .326 OBP and .434 SLG for a 112 OPS+ in his first full season. He also hit 19 home runs with 21 stolen bases and produced 3.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).[2] He placed seventh in the National League (NL) Rookie of the Year balloting.[10]

Over the next four seasons, Walker combined to hit .293/.366/.501 for a 134 OPS+, with an average of 20 home runs, 19 stolen bases, excellent defense (+10 runs per year) and 4.5 WAR. He never appeared in more than 143 games, spending time on the disabled list (DL) in 1991 and 1993 while playing on Olympic Stadium's notorious artificial turf, a product perceived to create excessive stress on knees, accelerating injuries to players like former Expo Andre Dawson.[2] One of the few native Canadians to play for the Expos, Walker became a role model for thousands of young Canadian baseball players.

Approximately one-quarter through the 1992 season, the Expos made Alou manager at the major league level, touching off a period of heightened success that lasted three years.[11] In the July 4 contest versus the San Diego Padres, Walker fielded a ground ball to right field and threw out speedy shortstop Tony Fernández at first base.[1] For the season, Walker hit .301/.353/.506 and rated 10 runs above average while fielding,[2] with 16 outfield assists,[1] for a total value of 5.4 WAR. He was named each of his first as an All-Star, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award, and became the first and only Canadian to win the Expos Player of the Year award.[2]

1993−94 seasons[edit]

The 1993 Expos reached a new watermark, winning 94 games. A core of immense young talent propelled the club in the standings, including Grissom and a rising Moises Alou (son of manager Felipe) complementing Walker in the outfield, Ken Hill and Jeff Fassero in the starting rotation and John Wetteland and Mel Rojas anchoring the bullpen.[12] Now the delight of Montreal fans who had watched the team struggle through decades of futility, excitement in Canada began to crescendo over the prospect of the first-ever all-Canadian World Series, as the Toronto Blue Jays were defending champions in 1993, and repeated that October.[13] Fueling the optimism was the Expos' 30−9 finish to the regular season, thus setting a club record for most wins in a season.[14]

Before the start of the 1994 season, the Expos acquired an up-and-coming starter in Pedro Martinez, giving the club an competitive rotation.[14] They continued to reach new heights of success, becoming the dominant club in the NL as they finished a major-league best 74–40 before the season was halted early in August due to the players' strike.[2][13][12] One amusing moment came on April 24 at Los Angeles. With one out in the third inning, Walker caught a Mike Piazza fly ball and innocently handed it to young fan, six year old Sebastian Napier, thinking it was the third out of the inning. He noticed that José Offerman, already on base, was running at full speed. Walker managed to retrieve the ball from Napier, and held Offerman to third base. Embarrassed, Walker remarked that he “told the little kid that maybe next time I’ll give him a ball when there are three outs instead of two. Everybody around him was laughing.” Where Offerman was stationed made little difference as Tim Wallach homered on the next pitch, from Pedro Martinez, for two runs. True to his word, in the bottom of the fourth inning, when the Expos assumed the field, Walker gave Napier a signed ball, inducing a standing ovation.[1]

After June 1, Montreal played their best baseball, going 46−18, until the strike halted the season on August 11.[14] The National League suspended Walker four games starting June 24 for inciting a bench-clearing brawl by charging the mound in a game against Pittsburgh.[15] He was on pace for new levels production in spite of a shoulder injury in late June that confined him to first base for the remainder of the season. He easily accelerated past his previous career highs set in 1992 with a .322 batting average, .394 OBP, and .587 SLG, including an immanency of his first 100-RBI year. He finished with 86 runs batted in (RBI), 151 OPS+, and a league-leading 44 doubles; the latter two figures were also new career-highs.[2]

Colorado Rockies[edit]

With general manager Kevin Malone under orders to drastically reduce payroll as a result of the strike, the Expos dealt away many of their young stars after the 1994 season, including declining to offer arbitration to Walker, making him a free agent. He signed a four-year contract with the Colorado Rockies worth nearly $22.5 million USD ($35.4 million today),[16] an average of more than $5.6 million ($8.8 million today), up from the $4,025,000 ($6.5 million today) the Expos paid him the year prior.[17]

1995−96[edit]

By signing with the Rockies, Walker transitioned into the most benevolent hitting environment since World War II in Coors Field. Nonetheless, even after mathematically adjusting for stadium and altitude advantages, his production during his Rockie years consistently rivaled other hitters whose accomplishments came in settings of far greater difficulty.[2] In 1995, he attained new career-highs with 36 home runs and 101 RBI − reaching both 30 home runs and 100 RBI for the first time in his career − in spite of missing 13 games of a season shortened by the strike that had begun the year before. His rate numbers were .306/.381/.607,[18] and as the average club scored 5.4 runs per game, his OPS+ fell about 20 percent from the year before to 131.[2]

One of a quartet of Rockies players who became known as The Blake Street Bombers, Walker, Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla and former Expos teammate Andrés Galarraga each contributed at least 30 home runs in 1995. The Rockies simultaneously won the first-ever National League wild card berth under the new postseason format and playoff appearance in franchise history, in just their third season of play. Walker collected three hits in 14 at bats in the National League Division Series (NLDS) versus the Atlanta Braves. He hit his first career postseason home run off Tom Glavine in the sixth inning of a 7−4 Game 2 loss. The Braves defeated the Rockies in four games.[1]

In a May 21, 1996, game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker doubled, tripled and hit two two-run home runs to drive in a career-best six runs in a 12–10 win. He set a club record with 13 total bases in one game.[19] The next day, also against the Pirates, he set an MLB record with six consecutive extra base hits.[20] He missed more than two months of the 1996 season due to a fractured clavicle[2][21] that occurred in a collision with an outfield fence. He hit .393 at Coors Field and .142 on the road.[22]

Most Valuable Player Award (1997)[edit]

The Rockies commenced the 1997 season on the road, and thus Walker started a reversal of his poor fortunes away from Coors. He hit two home runs in the season-opening series against the Reds in Cincinnati,[9] and, on April 5, hit three more versus the Expos in Montreal[22] for his first career three home run game. The second landed near a home-made sign reading "Boogerville." After the third, fans cheered Walker for the hat-trick in recognition of his former dream of playing hockey professionally. His first week accomplishments included a .440 batting average with six home runs in 25 at bats[9] and the NL Player of the Week Award for the second time on April 6.[18] He concluded the month of April batting .456 with 41 hits, 29 runs scored, 11 home runs, 29 RBI, seven stolen bases, .538 OBP, .911 SLG, and 1.449 OPS,[23] and was named NL Player of the Month for the first time.[18]

Walker sat out an interleague game on June 12 versus the Seattle Mariners. Former Expos teammate Randy Johnson, a left-handed pitcher standing 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 m) and one of the most intimidating players in sports history, was scheduled as the starter. "I faced Randy one time in spring training and he almost killed me," Walker explained of the rationale.[24] He collected his 1,000th career hit and 108th of the season on June 20 against Andy Ashby of San Diego.[1]

However, the decision to not bat against Johnson instigated a debacle as one of the indelible moments of Walker's career one month later in the 1997 All-Star Game. This time, Walker faced Johnson, who theatrically threw over his head. Ever adaptable, Walker placed his batting helmet backwards and switched sides in the batters' box to stand right-handed for one pitch. He ended the at bat by drawing a walk.[25] The incident momentarily drew mirth and laughter from players in both dugouts, fans and announcers, and comparisons to Johnson pitching against John Kruk in the 1993 All-Star Game, in which he also threw over his head.[26] In spite of garnering a reputation of avoiding Johnson,[27] Walker batted .393 (11 hits in 28 at bats) against him in his career,[28] nearly double the rate of all left-handed batters at .199.[29]

During the All-Star break, both Walker and Tony Gwynn were batting near .400, selectees to that year's All-Star Game, and right fielders for teams in the National League West division, so they were jointly interviewed,[30] as batting .400 is one of the most difficult achievements in all of sports.[31] Asked just how challenging it is, Gwynn, known to be a very studious hitter, elaborated with what he later termed a "complete dissertation." Walker responded, "I don't know anything about that stuff. I just hit the ball." While neither player wound up achieving the statistic over any full season, Gwynn won that year's National League batting championship and Walker was second.[30]

Walker continued his remarkable season: as late as July 17, he was hitting .402.[32] In September, he experienced another power surge, hitting home runs in four consecutive games – five in all – including the 199th and 200th of his career in San Diego on September 17. He injured the right elbow while swinging at pitch just before hitting his 49th home run in the Rockies' 160th game, forcing him out of the last two games. In spite of Walker's magnificent season, the Rockies were unable to capitalize, missing the playoffs with an 83–79 record.[1]

The career season for Walker was 1997, when he hit .366 with 49 home runs, 130 RBI, 208 hits, 143 runs scored, 33 stolen bases, and 409 total bases, en route to becoming the first Canadian player to win the Most Valuable Player Award (MVP). The home run and stolen base totals placed him in the 30–30 club. He became and remains the only player to have reached at least 30 stolen bases and a slugging percentage of .700 in the same season,[33] and the fifth with at least 40 home runs and 30 stolen bases. His production slotted within four hits and 10 RBI of winning the first batting Triple Crown in 60 years.[34] The 49 home runs set a single-season club record for Colorado. His achievements held up well on the road, including nine more home runs than at Coors Field: .346 average, 29 home runs and 62 RBI in 75 games.[35][36]

Also, Walker's 409 total bases were the most in an NL season since Stan Musial gained 429 in 1948, and the tenth-highest in MLB history. It was the first time in the National League since 1959 when Hank Aaron also produced 409 that a hitter reached 400 total bases and the 23rd time in MLB history.[36] Combined with 12 outfield assists, Walker's 1997 season remains one of the finest all-around performances in recent baseball history. An impressive overall player even while injured, his breakout season came just one year after various injuries limited him to 83 games and 272 at-bats; thus the NL Comeback Player of the Year award went to Darren Daulton. Walker was selected as the Rockies Player of the Year.[37]

First batting title (1998)[edit]

Although he rested the right elbow in the off-season, Walker aggravated the injury while playing golf the following January. He attempted to play through the injury and was on the disabled list for two weeks in June 1998.[1] However, he hit .331 in the first half of the season and was the selected as the starting right fielder for the National League in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season. After the All-Star break, Walker produced a .402 second-half batting average, and saw more time on the DL. With a .363 batting average, Walker became the first Canadian-born player to win a batting title in the 20th century.[a][34] Injuries cut short his season; after 1997, he would never reach 500 at-bats again.

He won the Lou Marsh Trophy in 1998 as Canadian athlete of the year after finishing runner-up the previous year to Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve. Walker also won that year's Tip O'Neill Award as Canada's top baseball player, one of nine times in his career.

Later Rockies career (1999−2004)[edit]

Plagued by injuries for the last several years of his career, Walker nevertheless continued to produce. He missed the first week of the 1999 season with a strained rib cage. On April 28, he hit three home runs against the St. Louis Cardinals for his second career three home run game while contributing eight RBI in a 9–7 win. He was named to his third consecutive both theAll-Star team and Gold Glove Award.[1] For the season, he batted .379 − a Rockies record[38] and the fourth-highest in a single season since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941[39] − while leading the major leagues in batting for a second time. Walker also led the major leagues in on-base percentage (.458) and slugging percentage (.710).[40] Sometimes referred to as the "Slash Stat Triple Crown," he became the seventh player within the previous 60 years to lead the league in each in the same season, and first since George Brett in 1980.[41] Walker also hit 37 home runs and 115 RBI in just 438 at bats, stole 11 bases in 15 attempts, and registered 12 outfield assists. He underwent knee surgery after the season.[42]

Walker produced 10.8 WAR combined in 1998−99 while missing at least 30 games in both seasons,[2] and from 1997−99, he hit .369.[43] He became the first player since Al Simmons from 192931 to hit at least .360 in each of three consecutive seasons.[1] Walker signed a six-year, $75 million (USD, $107.8 million today) contract extension after the 1999 season.[2] He was named as the ninth top male athlete of Canada's Athletes of the 20th Century list compiled in 1999.

While missing a major portion of 2000 with a stress fracture in the right elbow,[2] including two stints on the DL. On May 11, he was batting .347 and was placed on it for the first time in the season, inducing an absence of 23 games. He returned notably weakened, batting .286 over his final 57 games of the season. On September 8, he had surgery on the elbow.[1] Walker appeared in 87 games and batted .309 with nine home runs and 51 RBI.

Before the 2001 season, Walker started a new fitness regimen, including a enlisting a personal trainer. He displayed restored health in his right arm on Opening Day, throwing out Fernando Viña of the Cardinals at home plate. From April 17 to May 23, Walker safely reached base in 31 consecutive games. He played in that year's All-Star Game.[1] On August 5, he hit his 300th career home run, coming against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 5−4 loss.[44] On the season, he batted .350 for his third batting title with 38 homers and 123 RBI in 497 at-bats. He did not reach his personal goal of 150 games, but did play in 142 and managed 601 plate appearances, his highest totals since 1997.[1] Also he finished in the top ten in numerous other categories, including second in OBP (.449), third in offensive win % (.831), fifth in SLG (.663), sixth in OPS (1.111), adjusted OPS+ (160), at bats per home run (13.1), and WAR (7.8), and ninth in home runs.[45] He won another Gold Glove that year.

He hit .338 in 2002, second in the NL to Barry Bonds' .370 average, and reached 100 RBI for the second consecutive year.

A groin strain caused Walker to miss the first two and one-half months of the 2004 season.[2] His first three home runs of the season came on June 25, 2004, versus the Cleveland Indians, including the game-winning home run in the 10th inning off José Jiménez for a 10−8 Rockies win. Walker total four hits and five RBI. It was his third career three-home run game.[46] He indicated a desire to be traded to a playoff contender.[47] The Texas Rangers agreed to send to the Rockies then-minor leaguer Ian Kinsler and prospect right-hander Erik Thompson in exchange for Walker in July, but he vetoed the trade.[48]

St. Louis Cardinals[edit]

On August 6, 2004, Colorado sent Walker, who was batting .324 in 38 games, to the St. Louis Cardinals for three minor league players.[49] Customarily the Rockies' number three hitter, he became the Cardinals' number two hitter in a "stacked lineup" with no room in the three through five spots.[50] He hit behind a speedy Tony Womack and in front of the vaunted "MV3" 3−4−5 hitters of Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen,[51] who combined for 122 home runs and 358 RBI that year.[52] Walker made his Cardinals debut on August 8, playing the New York Mets, and appeared as a pinch-hitter and struck out in the seventh inning. He drew a walk from Mike Stanton in the ninth inning and scored the game-winning run on a Yadier Molina single.[53]

While playing the Milwaukee Brewers on August 30, 2004, Walker collected his 2,000th career hit, making him the first Canadian player to reach the milestone.[54] He appeared in 44 games for the Cardinal powerhouse that won a major league-best 105 games, batting .280, .393 OBP, .560 SLG and 11 home runs.[2]

In three playoff rounds in 2004, Walker combined to hit .293/.379/.707 with a pair of home runs in each tournament,[2] setting a franchise record for home runs hit by a left-handed batter in one postseason.[55] In his playoff debut with the Cardinals, Walker homered twice and scored four runs, while the Cardinals defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 8−3 in Game 1 of the NLDS.[56] St. Louis made it to the World Series to face the Boston Red Sox − the first and only of Walker's playing career. In his debut, he collected four hits in five at bats with a home run and two doubles.[57] Boston won the Series by sweeping St. Louis.[2] The Cardinals struggled to hit, batting .190 with a .562 OPS, while Walker batted .357 with a 1.366 OPS. His two home runs accounted for the only two hit by the entire Cardinals team.[58]

Walker also contributed to the 2005 NL Central division winners. A herniated disc in his neck prevented him from turning his head to left, and on June 27, 2005, he received a second cortisone shot to alleviate the pain. With eight previous surgeries and now playing with pain that impeded his ability to continue to produce at a high level, Walker signaled that he would retire from playing after the season. He had $12 million team option for 2006.[43]

He batted .289/.384/.502 in 100 regular season games. He combined to collect three hits in 28 at bats in the 2005 playoffs.[2] The Houston Astros defeated the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series in the last game ever played at Busch Memorial Stadium, the second iteration of Busch Stadium. Walker struck out in the ninth inning in elimination Game 6, his final at bat. He retired shortly after the game.[59]

He ended his career 50th on the all-time home run list with 383.

Playing style[edit]

Walker excelled at all aspects of the game, including hitting for average, hitting for power, plate discipline. speed, defense, and throwing. It was a feat even more impressive considering he only began playing organized after graduating high school and did not attend college.

Rival right fielder and longtime San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn, who won four consecutive National League batting championships before Walker won his first two, called him "the most complete player in the National League," and "best baserunner in the game" in a 2002 profile for ESPN, even though at that point he was 35 years old. Gwynn noted that Walker approaches the game very cerebrally and is always thinking ahead, unearthing a wide array of advantages that he applied to the game.[30] Said one sportwriter, "His hand-eye co-ordination was off the charts, and his instincts as an outfielder and baserunner were unmatched."[60]

On defense, Walker had extensive knowledge of where to play for each hitter, what the pitcher was going to throw, and where to position himself accordingly. He understands how to read the path and angle of the ball and how it ricocheted off the wall. His arm strength and accuracy often made it intimidating for baserunners to take extra bases. He is adept at mimicking catching long fly balls and line drives that he was actually unable to catch, often fooling hitters into settling for singles when they could have taken extra bases.[30]

Post-playing career[edit]

As of 2008, Walker is an instructor on the St. Louis Cardinals' spring training staff under manager Tony La Russa and does fill-in training with the Cardinals staff. He was offered a full-time position but chose to remain in his part-time position.[54]

In 2009, Walker served as Team Canada's hitting instructor at the 2009 World Baseball Classic and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2011, he also served as Hitting Coach/First Base Coach for Canada's Gold Medal winning team at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

He became eligible for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011. During his first year of eligibility, he received 118 votes, or 20.3 percent of all ballots cast; the threshold for entry is 75 percent.[61] A major negative for voters in considering Walker for the Hall Of Fame is the inflation of his hitting numbers playing at Coors Field.[62]

Accomplishments[edit]

Over his career, Walker produced a .313 batting average, .400 on-base percentage, and .565 slugging percentage for a 141 adjusted OPS+. One of just 19 hitters in history with a .300/.400/.500 batting line with at least 5,000 career plate appearances, his is just one of six whose careers began after 1960. Injuries forced him to miss 375 games from 1996 to 2004 as he appeared in 1,083 of 1,458 possible games.[63] Among all players with at least 8,000 plate appearances, he is tied with Chipper Jones for 36th all-time with a 141 OPS+.[64] His slugging percentage of .565 ranks 12th all-time.[65] He is one of 19 players to win at least three batting titles.[20] Defensively, he ranks eighth all-time among right fielders with 94 runs above average, per Baseball-Reference.[66]

Only Walker and Joey Votto have won the Tip O'Neill Award more than three times in their career.

In Colorado, Walker batted .382/.462/.710 and 229 of his career home runs in 2,501 PA. At all other locations, he batted .282/.372/.501 and 154 of career home runs in 5,529 PA.[67]

Walker remains in the top ten in many offensive categories for the Rockies.[38]

Commendations[edit]

Honors received
Title Date Ref
BC Sports Hall of Fame inductee 2009 Page
Canada's Athletes of the 20th Century #9 Greatest Male Athlete 1999
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame inductee 2007 Page
Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee 2009 Page
Colorado Sports Hall of Fame inductee 2011 Page
Awards received
Name of award Times Dates Ref
Baseball Digest Player of the Year 1 1997
Colorado Rockies Player of the Year 2 1997, 1999 [37]
DHL Hometown Hero for Colorado Rockies franchise 1 2006
ESPY Award for Best Baseball Player 1 1998 [68]
Lou Marsh Trophy 1 1998
Major League Baseball All-Star 5 1992, 199799, 2001
Montreal Expos Player of the Year 1 1992
National League MVP 1 1997

4× Top-10 MVP (1992 − 5th; 1995 − 7th; 1997 − Won; 1999 − 10th)

National League Player of the Month 2 April 1997, July 2002 [18]
National League Player of the Week 4 May 26, 1996; Apr. 6, 1997; Sep. 21, 1997; May 2, 1999 [18]
Players Choice Award for National League Outstanding Player 1 1997
Rawlings Gold Glove Award at outfield 7 1992, 1993, 1997–99, 2001, 2002
Silver Slugger Award at outfield 3 1992, 1997, 1999
Tip O'Neill Award 9 1987, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998,
2001 – with Corey Koskie, 2002 – with Éric Gagné

Statistical achievements[edit]

Career offensive totals
Category G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB RC P−S Off%
Totals 1,988 8,030 6,907 1,355 2,160 471 62 383 1,311 230 913 1,231 .313 .400 .565 .965 141 3,904 1,619 287.4 .746
Top 10 3 1 4 2 5 5 1 2 1 6 6 8 8 7 4 5 5 8
All-time 107 199 88 66 105 165 162 78 55 12 14 74 103 66 31 29
Career defensive totals
Category G Innings TC PO A E DP Fld RF/9 Rtot
Right field 1,708 14,987 3,322 3,125 150 47 40 .986 2.07 96
Top 5 as RF 4 3 7 1 11 7 2 8
Milestones
Category Times Seasons
30–30 club 1 1997
National League statistical leader
Category Times Seasons
Offensive statistics
Batting champion 3 1998, 1999, 2001
Doubles leader 1 1994
Extra base hits leader 1 1997
Home run leader 1 1997
On-base percentage leader 2 1997, 1999
On-base plus slugging leader 2 1997, 1999
Slugging percentage leader 2 1997, 1999
Total bases leader 1 1997
Defensive statistics as RF
Assists 3 1992, 1995, 2002
Double plays turned 5 1991, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2002
Fielding percentage 1 1997
Total zone runs 1 1993
Distinctions
  • Only player in MLB history to reach .700 slugging percentage and 30 stolen bases in same season (1997)[33]
  • MLB record 6 consecutive extra base hits (May 21–22, 1996)[20]

Personal life[edit]

Walker and his wife Angela have two daughters – Canaan Rose-Lynn (born 1999) and Shayna Kaitlin (born 2001) – and he has another daughter, Brittany Marie (born July 1993), from a previous relationship.[69]

Walker enjoys playing and watching soccer. He lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, and frequently bowls for recreation, at times with former major leaguers Ted Simmons and Matt Stairs.[70]

His theme song is "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne.

Walker is superstitious about the number three. He wore number 33 and was married on Nov. 3 at 3:33. He would take three, or any multiple of three, swings in the batter's box before he would hit.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

Source notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Cohen, Alan (December 21, 2015). "Larry Walker". Society of American Baseball Research. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Jaffe, Jay (December 15, 2016). "JAWS and the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot: Larry Walker". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  3. ^ DeMarco, Tony, "Larry Walker: Canadian Rocky" Sports Publishing LLC, 1999, p. 6–10. Retrieved through Google Books 4/24/11
  4. ^ a b Montville, Leigh (April 5, 1993). "The accidental ballplayer: Larry Walker always dreamed of playing in Montreal—for a hockey team". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved April 24, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Larry Walker minor league statistics & history". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  6. ^ Hill, Bob (August 10, 1986). "Le Naturel Larry Walker is no ordinary Class-A prospect. He's aiming to be the first Canadian born player to make it big in Montreal". Sun-Sentinel. p. 5C. 
  7. ^ "1986 Florida State League". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  8. ^ DeMarco, Tony, "Larry Walker: Canadian Rocky" Sports Publishing LLC, 1999, p.15. Retrieved through Google Books 4/24/11
  9. ^ a b c Crothers, Tim; Farber, Michael (April 14, 1997). "Kevin Mitchell and Deion Sanders return in style; Spring flings; Home run barrage by Larry Walker". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  10. ^ "1990 awards voting". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 8, 2017. 
  11. ^ Kurkjian, Tim (June 27, 1992). "Baseball: Northern exposure". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  12. ^ a b Shea, John (February 10, 2015). "Strike thwarted Felipe Alou's dynamic Expos". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Simmons, Jeff (July 19, 2013). "What happened? Looking back at the 1994 Expos". Sportsnet. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c Cocoran, Cliff (March 28, 2014). "Le Grand Cinq: The five best teams in Montreal Expos history". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  15. ^ Associated Press (June 24, 1994). "National League suspends Walker". The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2017. 
  16. ^ Blum, Ronald (April 12, 1995). "The biggest contract since the end of strike, Larry Walker's 4". Associated Press. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  17. ^ Chass, Murray (April 9, 1995). "Rockies open their wallet for two starts". The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2017. 
  18. ^ a b c d e "Larry Walker statistics and history". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 24, 2011. 
  19. ^ Montella, Paul (May 13, 2016). "This date in baseball". USA Today. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  20. ^ a b c BBHOF. "Larry Walker bio". BaseballHall,org. Retrieved April 8, 2017. 
  21. ^ UPI (June 9, 1996). "Walker out with broken collarbone". United Press International. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  22. ^ a b Chass, Murray (June 22, 1997). "Three cheers for the Rockies' Walker (He prefers it that way)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  23. ^ "Larry Walker 1997 batting splits". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  24. ^ Associated Press (June 12, 1997). "Walker will not face Johnson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  25. ^ Cut4Staff (July 8, 2016). "Today in All-Star Game history: Larry Walker flips helmet, bats right-handed". MLB.com Cut 4. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  26. ^ Baker, Chris (July 9, 1997). "Johnson's wild toss amuses Walker, fans". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  27. ^ Eisenberg, John; Kubatko, Roch (July 9, 1997). "Relieved Walker walks away from hairy at-bat vs. Johnson Kruk-like wild pitch keeps Rockie on toes". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  28. ^ Elias Sports Bureau, Inc. (June 11, 2005). "Elias says ...". ESPN.com. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  29. ^ "Randy Johnson career pitching splits". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  30. ^ a b c d Gwynn, Tony (August 20, 2002). "Baserunning big part of Walker's greatness". ESPN.com. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  31. ^ Caple, Jim (June 13, 2008). "Three cheers for Chipper Jones and his pursuit of .400". ESPN.com. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  32. ^ Knisley, Michael (July 14, 1997). "Preheat to .400". The Sporting News. p. 14. 
  33. ^ a b O'Brien, Sean (December 12, 2015). "More support for Larry Walker needs to be a Colorado standard". bsndenver.com. Retrieved January 28, 2017. 
  34. ^ a b "Larry Walker". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 28, 2017. 
  35. ^ Associated Press (November 14, 1997). "Walker MVP by a country mile". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  36. ^ a b Smith, Claire (November 14, 1997). "Walker is first Canadian M.V.P.". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  37. ^ a b "Rockies awards". Colorado Rockies. MLB. Retrieved August 9, 2014. 
  38. ^ a b "Colorado Rockies top 10 batting leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 24, 2011. 
  39. ^ Barbosa, Victor (January 18, 2017). "The 4 batters since Ted Williams closest to hitting .400". Sports Cheat Sheet. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  40. ^ "1999 Major League Baseball batting leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  41. ^ Funck, Kevin (August 26, 2009). "Changing speeds: The Slash Stat Triple Crown". Baseball Prospectus. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  42. ^ Newhan, Ross (October 3, 1999). "Around the NL: Walker gave Leyland joy in down season". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  43. ^ a b Kurkjian, Tim (June 30, 2005). "Career winding down for 'gifted' Walker". ESPN.com. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  44. ^ Associated Press (August 5, 2001). "Walker's 300th HR wasted in loss to Pirates". ESPN.com. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  45. ^ "2001 National League batting leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  46. ^ "Colorado vs. Cleveland". USA Today. June 26, 2004. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  47. ^ Springer, Steve (October 6, 2004). "Walker doubles his excitement". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  48. ^ Callis, Jim (July 30, 2004). "Dodgers, Marlins swap six players, may not be done". Baseball America. Retrieved August 4, 2009. 
  49. ^ ESPN.com News Services (August 6, 2004). "Rockies get three prospects for Walker". ESPN.com. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  50. ^ Jenkins, Lee (October 14, 2004). "New no. 2 hitters aren't second-rate". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  51. ^ Habib, Daniel (October 4, 2004). "The Pride of St. Louis". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  52. ^ "2. 2004 Cardinals". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 28, 2015. Retrieved February 19, 2017. 
  53. ^ Associated Press (August 8, 2004). "Walker walks, then Molina wins it". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  54. ^ a b Perkins, Owen (May 5, 2008). "Walker returns to Coors with Cards". MLB.com. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  55. ^ Miklasz, Bernie (October 13, 2014). "A closer look at Cards' homer bash". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved February 19, 2017. 
  56. ^ Anderson, Dave (October 6, 2004). "Walker puts on show for show-me Missourians". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  57. ^ Finley, Bill (October 24, 2004). "Walker is dangerous when others give way". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  58. ^ "2004 World Series: Boston Red Sox over St. Louis Cardinals (4–0)". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 8, 2017. 
  59. ^ Schlegel, John (October 19, 2005). "Walker says goodbye to baseball". MLB.com. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  60. ^ Griffin (January 9, 2017). "Hall of Fame case for Clemens, Bonds isn't too hard to make". The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved February 13, 2017. 
  61. ^ Bloom, Barry (January 5, 2010). "Cooperstown calls for Alomar, Blyleven". MLB.com. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  62. ^ Greatness Aided by Coors Field Retrieved 2013-12-28
  63. ^ Axisa, Mike (January 4, 2017). "Will Larry Walker make it in to the Hall of Fame? The case for and against him". CBSSports.com. Retrieved January 5, 2017. 
  64. ^ "Spanning multiple seasons or entire careers, from 1871 to 2015 (requiring at least 8000 plate appearances), sorted by greatest adjusted OPS+: Results". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  65. ^ Rosecrans, C. Trent (December 20, 2012). "Ranking the 2013 Hall of Fame candidates: No. 9, Larry Walker". CBSSports.com. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  66. ^ "Spanning multiple seasons or entire careers, from 1871 to 2014, played 50% of games at RF, sorted by greatest fielding runs: Results". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  67. ^ Snyder, Matt (December 20, 2012). "Examining Larry Walker's numbers: Coors vs. Non-Coors". CBSSports.com. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  68. ^ The ESPN Sports Almanac. ESPN Books. 208. p. 529. ISBN 1-933060-38-7. 
  69. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1664614/bio
  70. ^ MacLeod, Robert (January 11, 2015). "A MLB career behind him, Larry Walker learns to beat 'em in the alley". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 27, 2017. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Ken Caminiti
Jeff Kent
National League Player of the Month
April 1997
July 2002
Succeeded by
Tony Gwynn
Barry Bonds
Preceded by
Mark McGwire
National League Slugging Percentage Champion
1999
Succeeded by
Todd Helton