Maple Ridge’s Larry Walker Jr. was the pride of Canadian sports on Wednesday, as he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Walker was among a group of new inductees among baseball’s all-time greats, including the New York Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter. They were part of a ceremony at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which had been postponed for the 2020 class due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
LARRY LEGEND 👑
Welcome to Cooperstown, @Cdnmooselips33! pic.twitter.com/cYR77sHlKO
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 8, 2021
The star right fielder is the only Canadian-born position player in the hall, and just the second Canadian alongside pitcher Ferguson Jenkins.
In his speech, Walker said it was almost pre-ordained that he was going to play hockey, and noted he had played alongside NHL all-star Cam Neely, also from Maple Ridge. But he wasn’t good enough to make it as a goaltender.
By comparison, he played little baseball as a boy, but recalled playing fastpitch softball in Maple Ridge with father and brothers, with his mom cheering in the stands.
“My mom Mary, my dad Larry, and my brothers Barry, Carey and Gary, the rhyming family.”
It's National Larry Walker day today!
Congratulations on your induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
All-time Canadian MLB leader in Games, At-bats, Runs, Doubles, Homeruns, Hits, RBI, Stolen bases, Total bases, SLG, OPS, WAR. @baseballhall pic.twitter.com/LggQvHFt0U
— Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum 🇨🇦⚾️ (@CDNBaseballHOF) September 8, 2021
His parents still live in Maple Ridge, and there were numerous shots of a tearful Larry Walker Sr. broadcast on the MLB presentation of the ceremony.
Walker broke in with the Montreal Expos, then spent 10 seasons with the Colorado Rockies in his 17-year career.
“I’ll always be grateful that the Montreal Expos took a chance on me, and gave me an opportunity to play baseball professionally,” he said.
“It was a great honour to put on the Expo uniform and represent my home country.”
He also referred the great Expos team in 1994, considered potential World Series champions, when the season was lost to labour strife.
“We all lost out to the work stoppage, and nobody knows what would have happened that year, but I still imagine what it would have been like to bring a World Series to Quebec,” he said, and added that he joins baseball fans in Montreal in hoping Major League Baseball returns to the city.
“I share this honour with every Canadian,” he said. “And I hope that all you Canadian kids out there that have dreams of playing in the big leagues, that seeing me here today gives you another reason to go after those dreams.”
Walker had a huge bat, was five times selected for the all-star game, and won three batting titles. He was outstanding on defence, known for a cannon arm, and won seven gold glove awards. He won the 1997 National League MVP honours when he hit for a .366 average with a league leading 49 home runs and 130 RBIs.
Larry Walker becomes the second Canadian-born player to be enshrined in the @baseballhall today.
Here are Joey Votto and @adnansvirk on the impact and greatness of the 🇨🇦 legend. #HOF2021 pic.twitter.com/ajbjOFO74P
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) September 8, 2021
There were 34 hall of famers in attendance for the event.
Coors Field in Colorado with its light air and roomy outfield, is lauded as a hitters paradise. Without question, it has helped many a Rockies batter pad their statistics. According to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors, 1,266 home runs were hit at Denver stadium in 2019. That is over 200 more than the next highest park.
But a telling stat that brought up Walker Jr.’s stock is his WAR or wins-over-replacement. The stat is used to determine the additional amount of wins a player’s team has accumulated above the expected number of victories if they were substituted with a replacement-level player.
For Walker Jr., his career WAR of 68.7 on Fangraphs ranks him as 86th of all time.
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