Larry Walker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people named Larry Walker, see Larry Walker (disambiguation).
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 a 17-year career, Walker played for the Montreal Expos (1989–1994), Colorado Rockies (1995–2004), and St. Louis Cardinals (2004–2005). He was a five-time All-Star, won seven Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, a Lou Marsh Trophy, and the 1997 National League Most Valuable Player Award (NL MVP). 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. One of the all-round dominant players of his generation, Walker was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Over his career, Walker produced a .313 batting average, .400 on-base percentage, and .565 slugging percentage for a 141 adjusted OPS+. 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 only six whose careers began after 1960. Among right fielders, his 150 assists rank 17th all-time and 40 double plays turned rank ninth.

Born in the Greater Vancouver area of British Columbia, Walker had NHL goaltender aspirations as a youth but baseball became the sport of choice. He made his MLB debut with the Expos in 1989, and became an All-Star for the first time in 1992 and one of the team leaders. In 1994, he batted .322 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 highest productivity followed.

During a five-year period from 1997 to 2001, in addition to an MVP, Walker won three batting titles, in each instance leading 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 on-base percentage and .720 slugging percentage, and also hitting 46 doubles and 130 runs batted in, stealing 33 bases, and registering 12 outfield assists and 9.8 Wins Above Replacement. In 1999, he led the major leagues in all three of each in a .379 batting average, .458 on-base percentage, and .710 slugging percentage; both the batting average and on-base percentage were career bests. Frequently injured, he missed 375 games from 1996 to 2004.

Desiring a trade to a contending team, the Rockies sent Walker to St. Louis in the middle of their 105-win 2004 season and 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. In addition, Walker has served as a guest instructor for the Cardinals and coached for the Canadian national baseball team.

Early life and amateur career[edit]

Born in 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. In 1984, he played for the Coquitlam Reds of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League. He 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 had hit with metal bats. Fanning signed Walker for $1500 in spite of his relative lack of experience playing organized baseball.[3][1]

Professional career[edit]

Early career[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 average and two home runs. Walker feared he would be released, but Expos hitting coach Ralph Rowe successfully argued that Walker should 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]

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.[5]

Ranked No. 42 on Baseball America’s list of top prospects in advance of the 1990 season, Walker became the Expos' regular right fielder, patrolling an outfield that at times featured Tim Raines and Marquis Grissom. Walker batted .241 with a .326 on-base percentage and .434 slugging percentage for a 112 OPS+. He also hit 19 home runs with 21 stolen bases and produced 3.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).[2]

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] Walker became a role model for thousands of young Canadian baseball players. In a July 4, 1992, game, he fielded a ground ball to right field and threw out speedy San Diego Padres 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 to his first each of an All-Star Game, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award, and became the first and only Canadian to win the Expos Player of the Year award.[2]

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 complementing Walker in the outfield, Ken Hill, Pedro Martinez and Jeff Fassero in the starting rotation and John Wetteland and Mel Rojas anchoring the bullpen.[6] Now the delight of Montreal fans who had watched the team struggle through decades of futility, excitement in Canada surrounded the prospect of the first-ever all-Canadian World Series, as the Toronto Blue Jays were defending champions in 1993, and repeated that October.[7]

The 1994 Expos 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][7][6] Walker 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]

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 ($36.4 million today).[8] 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 a Rockie years consistently rivaled other hitters whose accomplishments came in settings of far greater difficulty.[2] Walker attained new career-highs in 1995 with 36 home runs and 101 RBI although he missed 13 games of a season shortened by the strike of the year before. His rate numbers were .306/.381/.607,[9] and as the average club scored 5.4 runs per game, his OPS+ fell about 20 percent to 131.[2] The Rockies simultaneously won the first-ever National League wild card berth under the new postseason format, and first playoff appearance in franchise history.

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.[10] He missed more than two months of the 1996 season due to a fractured clavicle.[2][11]

MVP and batting title seasons (1997−98)[edit]

On April 5, 1997, Walker hit three home runs against the Expos.

Always ready for the big stage, one of the signature and most humorous moments of Walker's baseball career came in the 1997 All-Star Game. Batting against a former Expos teammate and one of the most intimidating players in sports history in Randy Johnson, the 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 m) lefty theatrically threw over Larry's head. Ever adaptable, Walker placed his batting helmet backwards and switched sides in the batters' box to stand right-handed for one pitch.[12] The incident drew comparisons to Johnson pitching against John Kruk in the 1993 All-Star Game, in which he also threw over Kruk's head. In spite of infamously missing one start against the "Big Unit" in the regular season,[13] and a subsequent reputation of avoiding Johnson following,[14] Walker batted .393 against Johnson in his career, nearly double the rate of all left-handed batters at just .199.[15]

The career season for Walker was 1997, when he hit .366 with 49 home runs, 130 RBI, 33 stolen bases, and 409 total bases, en route to becoming the first Canadian player to win the MVP Award. He became and remains the only player to have at least 25 stolen bases and a slugging percentage of more than .700 in a season.

Walker's 409 total bases in 1997 were the most in an NL season since Stan Musial's 1948 season, although the mark was bettered by Sammy Sosa in 1998 with 416. Combined with 12 outfield assists, Walker's 1997 season remains one of the finest all-around performances in recent baseball history. Even more impressively, Walker's breakout season came just one year after various injuries limited him to 83 games and 272 at-bats, although the NL Comeback Player of the Year award went to Darren Daulton. Walker was selected as the Rockies Player of the Year.[16]

In 1998, Walker won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canadian athlete of the year after finishing runner-up the previous year to Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve. He also won the Tip O'Neill Award as Canada's top baseball player, one of nine times in his career. Although he would never have 500 at-bats in a season after 1997, he hit a major league-leading .363 in 1998 in limited action to win his first National League batting title.

Later career[edit]

Walker was plagued by injuries for the last several years of his career, nevertheless continuing to produce. In 1999, he hit .379 − a Rockies record − while leading the major leagues in batting for a second time. In 2000, he spent a significant portion of the season on the disabled list as he appearned in 87 games, batting .309 with nine home runs and 51 RBI. The following year, he batted .350 for his third batting title with 37 homers and 115 RBI in just 438 at-bats. He hit .338 in 2002 and reached 100 RBI for the second consecutive year.

In July 2004, the Texas Rangers agreed to send the Rockies then-minor leaguer Ian Kinsler and prospect right-hander Erik Thompson in exchange for Walker, but he vetoed the trade.[17]

In August 2004, Walker, who was batting .324 despite being injured, desired a trade to a contender. He went to the St. Louis Cardinals for three minor league players.[18] Now playing for the Cardinal powerhouse, Walker contributed briefly to the pennant-winning 2004 squad and the 2005 NL Central division winners. He collected his 2,000th career hit on August 30, 2004, against the Milwaukee Brewers, making him the first Canadian player to reach the milestone.[19] The Houston Astros defeated the Cardinals in the 2005 NLCS in the last game ever played at Busch Stadium. Walker struck out in the ninth inning in elimination Game 6, his final at bat. He retired shortly after the game.[20]

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

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.[19]

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.[21] A major negative for voters in considering Walker for the Hall Of Fame is the inflation of his hitting numbers playing at Coors Field.[22]

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.[23]

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

Walker remains in the top ten in many offensive categories for the Rockies.[24]

Commendations[edit]

Honors received
Title Date Ref
BC Sports Hall of Fame inductee 2009 Page
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 [16]
DHL Hometown Hero for Colorado Rockies franchise 1 2006
ESPY Award for Best Baseball Player 1 1998 [25]
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
National League Player of the Week 4 May 26, 1996; Apr. 6, 1997; Sep. 21, 1997; May 2, 1999
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]

Milestones
Category Times Seasons
30–30 club 1 1997
National League statistical leader
Category Times Seasons
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

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.[26]

Walker enjoys playing and watching soccer.

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.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f 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 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. ^ 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. ^ DeMarco, Tony, "Larry Walker: Canadian Rocky" Sports Publishing LLC, 1999, p.15. Retrieved through Google Books 4/24/11
  6. ^ a b Shea, John (February 10, 2015). "Strike thwarted Felipe Alou's dynamic Expos". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Simmons, Jeff (July 19, 2013). "What happened? Looking back at the 1994 Expos". Sportsnet. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  8. ^ Blum, Ronald (April 12, 1995). "The biggest contract since the end of strike, Larry Walker's 4". Associated Press. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Larry Walker statistics and history". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 24, 2011. 
  10. ^ Montella, Paul (May 13, 2016). "This date in baseball". USA Today. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  11. ^ UPI (June 9, 1996). "Walker out with broken collarbone". United Press International. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Baker, Chris (July 9, 1997). "Johnson's wild toss amuses Walker, fans". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ "Randy Johnson career pitching splits". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  16. ^ a b "Rockies awards". Colorado Rockies. MLB. Retrieved August 9, 2014. 
  17. ^ Callis, Jim, "Dodgers, Marlins swap six players, may not be done", Baseball America, 7/30/04, accessed 8/4/09
  18. ^ ESPN.com News Services (August 6, 2004). "Rockies get three prospects for Walker". ESPN.com. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  19. ^ a b Perkins, Owen (May 5, 2008). "Walker returns to Coors with Cards". MLB.com. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  20. ^ Schlegel, John (October 19, 2005). "Walker says goodbye to baseball". MLB.com. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  21. ^ Bloom, Barry (January 5, 2010). "Cooperstown calls for Alomar, Blyleven". MLB.com. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  22. ^ Greatness Aided by Coors Field Retrieved 2013-12-28
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ "Colorado Rockies top 10 batting leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 24, 2011. 
  25. ^ The ESPN Sports Almanac. ESPN Books. 208. p. 529. ISBN 1-933060-38-7. 
  26. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1664614/bio
  27. ^ Montville, Leigh, "The Accidental Ballplayer" Sports Illustrated, 4/5/1993. Accessed 4/24/11

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