Former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Thursday in Toronto. His 17-year Major League career began in 1989 with the Montreal Expos after signing as a non-drafted free agent in 1984. Walker spent a majority of his MLB time with the Colorado Rockies before finishing with St. Louis.
All of Walker’s major career milestones led the more than 225 Canadians who have played Major League Baseball. They include 1,988 games played, 2,160 hits, 383 home runs, 1,355 runs scored, 1,311 runs batted in and 230 stolen bases.
Walker became the 234th player in MLB history to reach 2,000 hits and was the first Canadian to reach that mark. He joined the Cardinals in a trade on August 6, 2004 for three minor leaguers, Jason Burch, Luis Martinez and Chris Narveson.
A native of Maple Ridge, British Colombia, Walker was named the National League Most Valuable Player in 1997 and earned three NL batting titles (1998, 1999, 2001) while playing for the Rockies. But none of them represented his career highlight – that was playing in the 2004 World Series for the Cardinals.
It was a rare opportunity - only the second time Walker’s teams had reached the post-season in his long career. The other was in 1995 with the Rockies. Overall, in the 2004 playoffs, Walker hit .293 with six home runs and 11 RBIs and he scored 21% of the Cardinals’ post-season runs (14 of 68).
At each step along the 2004 playoff path, Walker excelled.
In the Divisional Series against the Dodgers, Walker set the pace in Game One with two home runs. That made him only the third player in the history of the franchise to go deep twice in a playoff game and their first in the NLDS.
In the Championship Series, Walker also led the team early, finishing a home run shy of a cycle in the first game against the Houston Astros.
Though the Cardinals were swept by the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, Walker was again the pacesetter with four hits in a close loss in Game One. He was the first Cardinal to collect four hits in a Series game since Lou Brock in 1967. One of St. Louis’ few standouts in the decisive Series defeat, he batted .357 including two home runs in the four games.
"It's always tough to pick a career highlight, but playing in the World Series tops them all," Walker told the Vancouver Sun. "We wanted to beat Boston's derrieres. It didn't work out that way, but it was still a thrill to play in the Series."
Walker retired after the 2005 playoffs, specifically the sixth game of the 2005 National League Championship Series in which the Houston Astros defeated St. Louis four games to two. He hung on to play despite multiple injections to try to arrest pain from a herniated disc in his neck.
Unfortunately for Walker, the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, the year after the now-40 year-old ended his playing career.
Still, the organization did not forget Larry, who continues to give back to the Cardinals as a special coach, joining the club at periodic intervals to help out his former teammates. In the photo, Walker (right) assisted fellow Canadian and first base coach Dave McKay in drills during 2007 Spring Training. Preston Wilson is the player sliding.
"The Cardinals were kind enough to give me a World Series ring," Walker told the Sun. "Injuries were a part of my decision to retire, but my game wasn't quite what it was before. It was time to move on and open up a spot for a younger player."
Larry’s father, Larry Walker, Sr., was present for the Hall of Fame festivities and was an expectedly proud papa.
"There's no greater sporting recognition in this country than getting elected to the Hall of Fame," said Walker Sr. "I'm just thrilled to have kids come up to me and say my son is their idol. He deserves everything he has."
Walker was joined in the induction ceremonies by wrestler Daniel Igali, former NHL star Mike Bossy, two-time Olympic hockey gold medallist Cassie Campbell, former CFL and NFL quarterback Doug Flutie, and Olympic cross-country skier Beckie Scott.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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