Canada's Larry Walker chooses Rockies over Expos cap for Hall of Fame plaque
Maple Ridge, B.C., native commended by fellow Canadian Fergie Jenkins
Canada's Larry Walker said his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown will have a Colorado Rockies cap, not a Montreal Expos hat.
The Maple Ridge, B.C., native spoke with Hall officials after he was elected Tuesday in his 10th and final appearance on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.
Walker received 76.6 per cent, narrowly surpassing the 75 per cent required for induction by just six votes.
"I'm on cloud 9 right now," Walker told CBC's The National Tuesday night after the result was revealed.
WATCH | Walker jokes about SpongeBob outfit:
The former Colorado Rockies and Montreal Expos slugger is just the second Canadian elected to the Hall. Pitcher Fergie Jenkins of Chatham, Ont., was inducted in 1991.
"It's a hard decision, being a Canadian," Walker said of his cap choice.
He added the key to picking the Rockies is that Colorado was "where the majority of my damage was done."
The Hall makes the final decision after consulting with the player.
Walker batted .381 with an 1.172 OPS and 154 home runs in 597 games at Coors and .282 with 229 homers and an .873 OPS in 1,391 games elsewhere, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That left him at .313 with 383 homers and 1,311 RBIs overall.
pitcher with a career record of 20-37.
Asked whether he would be in the Hall if he hadn't raked in the thin air, he quickly replied: "absolutely not."
"I get it. Coors Field's a great place to hit. There's no backing away from that," he said. "But I believe with that, I did it better than anybody else at that ballpark. So that had to be some consideration, I guess."
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Walker, the 1997 National League MVP, is joined in this year's induction class by New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who amassed 99.7 per cent of the vote. Jeter fell short of a unanimous ballot by just one vote in his first year of eligibility.
Walker, like Jeter, put on the cream-coloured Hall of Fame jersey. When he took the phone call Tuesday informing him of election, he was wearing a garish yellow-and-black SpongeBob SquarePants shirt. His 20-year-old daughter Canaan sent a text "Way to go, dad. You're trending," he recalled.
"I knew we're going to go sit outside and hang out up front, so I just wanted something a little warmer," he said.
The induction ceremony will be held in Cooperstown, N.Y. on July 26.
Jenkins happy for Walker
Jenkins said he didn't expect to be hanging on to his status as the lone Canadian in Cooperstown for long.
"I was anticipating him being elected maybe five or six years ago," Jenkins said with a laugh. "But I'm pretty happy for him. I know he's happy, I know his family is proud of him.
"He put up some really good numbers and he's well-deserving of the Hall of Fame."
Jenkins had already retired before Walker made his major league debut with the Montreal Expos in 1989, but he said he followed along from afar as Walker's career played out over 17 seasons.
As the first Canadian Hall of Famer ever inducted, I couldn’t be prouder and happier to welcome my friend and fellow Canadian Larry Walker to the Hall! 🇨🇦 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/halloffame?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#halloffame</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Cdnmooselips33?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Cdnmooselips33</a> <a href="https://t.co/Ve1VuGvlgO">pic.twitter.com/Ve1VuGvlgO</a>—@fergieajenkins
The two first met in 2009 when Walker was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. Jenkins, who was inducted into that Hall in 1987, spoke to Walker after his induction and the two took a photo together — which Jenkins shared Tuesday night on Twitter in a congratulatory message for his countryman.
Jenkins and Walker, despite a 24-year age gap, have similar stories when it comes to their early baseball days. Both initially dreamed of becoming hockey stars — Jenkins maintains he was "a pretty good defenceman" — and both were noticed by scouts as teenagers at a time before Canadian high school players were eligible for the MLB draft.
Jenkins said the induction ceremony is likely the moment it will all sink in for Walker, and the moment his life will change.
"The biggest thing is you're able to put 'HOF' behind your name, and people recognize your career because of the fact that you're one of the best," he said. "That's what Larry Walker is now — one of the best — and it's a nice thing to get that recognition for playing your career."
Named NL MVP in 1997
Walker hit an eye-popping .366 with a league-best 49 homers, 46 doubles and a career-high 130 runs batted in during his MVP season. His .452 on-base percentage that year, as well as his .720 slugging percentage, also topped the NL.
Walker signed with the Expos as an amateur free agent as a 17-year-old in 1984, five years before Canadians were first eligible for the MLB draft.
His shift to baseball came after Walker had been cut from a junior hockey team.
Walker made his MLB debut in 1989 and played six seasons with Montreal before signing a free-agent deal with Colorado. He capped his career with 144 games over parts of two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals from 2004 to 2005.
With files from The Associated Press