Votto, Morneau want Hall of Fame recognition for Larry Walker

Votto, Morneau want Hall of Fame recognition for Larry Walker

Larry Walker’s number will be retired on April 19 at Coors Field

Joey Votto admittedly didn’t pay much attention to fellow Canadian Larry Walker during his 17-year playing career.

It wasn’t until after the 1997 National League MVP retired that Votto, an MVP winner himself, started to fully appreciate Walker’s accomplishments.

“Sometimes you don’t know how good someone is until you give it a little time and can step back and see how special they are,” said Votto, a six-time all-star with the Cincinnati Reds.

“Larry is one of those examples.

“I got to watch old film of him, I got to talk to his peers, I got to know him, and I looked at his career statistically and it completely changed my perspective of him.”

Votto isn’t the only one who’s experienced a shift in perspective when it comes to Walker.

The former Colorado Rockies and Montreal Expos slugger is on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for a 10th and final time, and he could finally break through after years of missing the 75 per cent threshold needed for induction.

The Maple Ridge native was on 85.4 per cent of known voter ballots as of Friday, four days before the 2020 class was to be announced. He received just 54.6 per cent last year and 34.1 in 2018.

“How you can jump to 80 per cent over a 10-year time frame, the numbers are always what they are,” said Justin Morneau, another Canadian MVP winner. “Is it just now that voters have a different perspective, or are they realizing ‘hey, this guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and this is his last chance’?

“It’s surprising to me that he didn’t get as much attention before. I think playing in Colorado worked against him, the perception of that.”

Walker, who will have his No. 33 retired by the Rockies, was a career .313 hitter, spent 10 seasons at hitter-friendly Coors Field. But he still had solid numbers on the road, including an .865 on-base plus slugging percentage that’s higher than the total OPS of some current Hall of Famers — George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Reggie Jackson and Roberto Clemente included.

READ MORE: Former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay voted into Baseball Hall of Fame

Walker batted an eye-popping .366 during his MVP-winning season with a league-best 49 homers — 29 of those on the road — 46 doubles and a career-high 130 runs batted in. His .452 on-base percentage that year, as well as his .720 slugging, also topped the NL.

The seven-time Gold Glover and five-time all-star also led the league in batting average three times — .363 in 1998, .379 in 1999 and .350 in 2001.

“Obviously (Colorado) is a good place to hit and there have been some batting champions to come out of there, but not everyone who’s played there has put up those numbers,” Morneau said.

As extraordinary as the numbers are, Votto said he’s been most impressed with the way Walker’s contemporaries have described him.

“I trust the players before me when they say this guy was an unbelievable player, he was an all-around player, a guy who was among the best players of his generation and a clear Hall of Famer,” Votto said. “Because I didn’t get to see him at his best, I trust the guys who did see him and can say ‘this guy was fantastic.’ That’s really all I can go off of.

“There are some players when you know, you know. And everyone says Larry was a special player.”

While Votto grew up in Toronto — with limited access to televised Rockies games — Morneau, of New Westminster, was always much closer to Walker’s influence.

The two formed a bond early when Walker sent Morneau some of his bats while the younger Canadian was in double-A. The package came as a surprise to Morneau, who wasn’t aware he was even on Walker’s radar.

A few years later Morneau made his MLB debut in an interleague game in Minnesota against Walker’s Rockies. Walker sent Morneau an autographed bat before that game with the inscription: ‘to Justin, make Canada proud.’

Morneau, the 2006 American League MVP, ended up playing in Colorado later in his career, wearing Walker’s No. 33 as an homage to his idol. While the number isn’t officially retired by the Rockies, he still had to get Walker’s permission to wear it.

“I guess he had to call them on my behalf and say ‘hey, yeah, let him wear it,’” Morneau said with a laugh. ”They said I should have come up to ‘Crazy Train’ like he used to but I wasn’t going to go that far.”

Walker has continued to stay involved in the Canadian baseball community, serving as a hitting coach with the men’s national team on multiple occasions.

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill, who’s also from Maple Ridge, is among those who have benefited from Walker’s expertise. The two first met when Walker helped coach Canada’s team at the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015.

“He was the biggest baseball influence in our area. I mean, I used to practise at Larry Walker Field,” the 24-year-old O’Neill said. ”Any time you can have a guy like that as your hitting coach is a plus.

“He’s a legend, in my eyes at least.”

If elected, Walker would be just the second Canadian into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., joining pitcher Fergie Jenkins of Chatham, Ont., who was inducted in 1991.

Morneau said Walker’s addition could have a lasting impact on Canadian baseball.

“I don’t know if validation is the right word, but if he gets in it almost feels like we all get in,” Morneau said. “He’s the guy we all looked up to.

“When he was coming along there were just so few baseball players from Canada and he opened the door for all of us and made it OK for teams to draft Canadian players, to take a chance on us Canadian guys.”

Walker’s number be retired on April 19 at Coors Field, he will be just the second Rockies player to be so honoured after Todd Helton.

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maple Ridge City Hall. (The News files)
Maple Ridge takes development services virtual

Building, planning and engineering services will be offered online only until end of the month

Thousands have converged in Whonnock Lake Park to enjoy the nice weather. (Roxanne Hooper/The News)
Thousands enjoy Maple Ridge park as city warns about social distancing

Portable toilets installed in anticipation of nice weather

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two new Maple Ridge schools have COVID-19 exposures

Alouette elementary and Maple Ridge secondary visited by virus

Ridge Meadows RCMP Const. Britteny George and Westview students turned old tires into pet beds. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge students help turn old tires into pet beds

Westview art classes and RCMP constable take on project

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Conservative MP Marc Dalton and former MP and Liberal candidate Dan Ruimy.
Dalton slams budget, Ruimy defends Liberal spending

Neither politician sees federal budget triggering an election

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

(Aldergrove Star files)
BREAKING: IHIT investigating fatal shooting near Langley Sportsplex

91a Avenue at 200th Street is closed to the public as RCMP investigate

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Most Read