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More than 19,000 men have played Major League Baseball, but only 233 have been elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. That works out to about 1 per cent of all major-leaguers.
Only one of the players in the Hall of Fame is a Canadian. Pitcher Ferguson Jenkins of Chatham, Ont., was inducted in 1991 after a 19-year career that included a 284-226 career record, being an all-star three times and winning the 1971 Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs as the best pitcher in the National League.
That number could double at 6 p.m. on Tuesday when former Expos outfielder Larry Walker finds out if he will make it in his 10th and final chance to be elected into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The ExposFest fan group has organized a viewing event that will start at 5:30 p.m. at Taverne 1909 at Laval’s Place Bell.
Last year, Walker’s name was on 54.6 per cent of the ballots submitted and he needs to hit 75 per cent to get in. It looks like it’s going to be very close this year.
“As a Canadian, I’m proud to be in this position and hopefully I can do it,” Walker said during an interview with Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy while attending an NHL game in Florida on Jan. 10 between the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks.
Walker, 53, grew up in Maple Ridge, B.C., with dreams of becoming an NHL goalie. But after getting cut from a tryout with the junior Regina Pats of the WHL, Walker started to focus on baseball and, at age 17, earned a spot on the Canadian national team and then signed a $1,500 free-agent contract with the Expos.
Walker was a raw talent at the time, but learned the game quickly and made his major-league debut with the Expos in 1989 at age 22. Walker would play five more seasons with the Expos before joining the Colorado Rockies as a free agent. He signed a four-year contract worth US$22.5 million with the Rockies after the end of the 1994 season was wiped out by a players’ strike, with the Expos having the best record in MLB (74-40) and Walker hitting. 322 with 44 doubles, 19 home runs, 86 RBIs and a .587 slugging percentage.
Walker was named the National League’s MVP in 1997, when he hit a league-leading 49 home runs and added 130 RBIs. With the Rockies, Walker would play 1,170 games and win three batting titles (1998, 1999 and 2001) while hitting .334 with 258 homers and 848 RBIs. He ended his career with 383 homers, 1,311 RBIs, a .313 batting average and seven Gold Gloves for fielding.
With a career .565 slugging percentage, Walker ranks 12th on the all-time list, ahead of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. There are only six players who can match him in batting average (.313), on-base percentage (.400) and slugging percentage (.565) — Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
The knock some voters have on Walker is the fact he played so many games at hitter-friendly Coors Field in mile-high Denver, where he hit .381 with a .462 on-base percentage and a .710 slugging percentage. His career road totals included a .278 average, a .370 on-base percentage and a .495 slugging percentage.
During an interview with TSN 690 Radio’s Mitch Melnick after he received only 34.1 per cent of the Hall of Fame votes in 2018, Walker gave a great answer when asked about playing at Coors Field.
“There’s a lot of numbers that are similar or better than other players that have gone in (the Hall of Fame),” Walker told Melnick. “You know what? I played in a ball park for I think it was 30 per cent of my career was at Coors Field. … It’s a major-league team and it’s going to be there for a while. It’s a great place to play and it’s a beautiful city and great people. I can’t fault myself. I played for a major-league team that happened to be in Denver. If that’s a problem and it’s going to be an issue for them, then get rid of the team and move it elsewhere if it’s going to be that big of an issue. No needles went in my ass (with performance-enhancing drugs). I played the game clean, but I played in a ball park and it’s almost like Coors Field is my PED.”
In his Sportsnet interview during the Panthers-Canucks game this month, Walker said he thinks he’s going to come up “a little short” in the Hall of Fame voting.
“But there’s no problem with that,” he added. “If I’m not on the ballot this year, I’m good with that. I never dreamed of playing baseball in the major leagues. I played for 17 years and was on the ballot for 10 years, so to me that’s an accomplishment.”
If Walker doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, his last hope would be through a veterans committee vote in the future.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020