Larry Walker displayed all the skills of a five-tool player during a stellar 17-year big-league career, and that’s why he’ll be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Yet it’s a different set of talents possessed by the native of Maple Ridge, B.C., that sticks out in the minds of some of his former teammates.
“He can belch the A-B-Cs,” recalled Darrin Fletcher, who played with Walker on the Montreal Expos in the early 1990s. “It’s something he can share with any one at any time.”
So he did it often?
“Oh my God,” replied Marquis Grissom, who came up with Walker and played the outfield alongside him for five-plus seasons with the Expos. “That was a daily routine for him. We started calling him Filthy McNasty.”
That reputation helped make Walker a popular player during his stops in Montreal, Colorado and St. Louis, and is why so many of his former teammates are happy he’s being honoured.
It’s one thing to deliver on the field. It’s another to deliver and be likable at the same time.
“Some guys come to the ballpark so intense and so focused,” said Fletcher. “I think Larry did it the right way, he came to the ballpark and did his thing but carried himself in a ‘have fun-type’ mentality.”
Grissom was one of those guys.
Competitively, they pushed each other to be better as they rose through Montreal’s stocked farm system, each getting a taste of big-league life in 1989. They became full-time players in 1990 and starred in the Expos outfield until both left following the strike-shortened ’94 season.
In 1,988 career games, he smacked 383 home runs, 471 doubles and 2,160 hits, posting a .313 batting average with 230 stolen bases.
With the Expos, Grissom would get on base and often get knocked in by Walker.
“He had that all-around game,” said Grissom.
“He was real fast, had a great arm and he motivated all the other guys to step their game up each and every day we were on the field.”
Praise like that is why Walker was a natural choice to headline the Canadian Hall’s Class of 2009. Also set for induction Saturday in St. Marys, Ont., are Ernie Whitt, Bernie Soulliere and the late Roy (Doc) Miller.