Canada’s Larry Walker is headed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Walker, from Maple Ridge, B.C., received 76.6 per cent of the vote by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his 10th and final year on the ballot, narrowly surpassing the 75 per cent required for induction.
“I think I was quoted earlier saying that I didn’t think it would happen and I actually truly meant that,” Walker told MLB Network after the vote was revealed, referencing a tweet he sent out earlier in the day. “I had the numbers in my head and was prepared for no call and then the opposite happened and that call comes and all of a sudden you can’t breathe.
“The day flew by pretty quick but when that phone rang and I saw that number, yeah, the heart skips a beat.”
The former Colorado Rockies and Montreal Expos slugger is the second Canadian elected to the Hall of Fame. Pitcher Fergie Jenkins of Chatham, Ont., was inducted in 1991.
The 77-year-old Jenkins sent Walker a congratulatory message on Twitter moments after the announcement.
“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!” he said.
Walker, a five-time all-star and 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.
The induction ceremony will be held in Cooperstown in July.
Walker is a career .313 hitter over 17 seasons, including 10 with Colorado.
He won the NL MVP award in 1997 with the Rockies, when he hit an eye-popping .366 with a league-best 49 homers, 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.
Walker is also a three-time NL batting champion — hitting .363 in 1998, .379 in 1999 and .350 in 2001.
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.
He 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 2004-05.
Walker had received 54.6 per cent of the votes last year in his ninth year on the ballot, up from the 34.1 per cent he received in 2018.
He is the first Rockies player to be inducted into the Hall.
Congratulatory messages poured in for Walker from various Canadian players on social media.
“Unbelievably well deserved @Cdnmooselips33,” Atlanta Braves right-hander and Calgary native Mike Soroka tweeted. ”Amazing to see it happen to such a great person as well.”
“Congrats to @Cdnmooselips33 on finally getting into the hall of fame,” said Mississauga, Ont., native Dalton Pompey on Twitter. “More than well deserved! Proud moment for any Canadian.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020.
The Canadian Press