Baseball Profile
Rockie Path: Larry Walker
Larry Walker overcame a late start to become one of the
best all-around players in the game's history.

Memories and Dreams: The Official Magazine of the Hall of Fame
by Tracy Ringolsby
By his senior year in high school in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Larry Walker had given up on his professional hockey dream and left his formal education behind.
Life, however, was about to take an unexpected and rewarding turn, sending Walker on a journey that has led to Cooperstown and his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame - far from where Walker says he would have been had he pursued a hockey career.
"I'd be missing a few more teeth," he joked about how he'd look had he not hung up the skates a couple years before deciding to drop out of high school. "I don't know if the success would have been there in hockey that I enjoyed in baseball. I'd probably he home in Maple Ridge working in the real world right now."
Walker had dabbled in baseball growing up, but the seasons were short because of the weather in Canada, and the game wasn't played at the high school level in British Columbia.
"You would play maybe 12 to 14 games from the end of April to the end of June," explained Larry Walker, Sr., who had been Walker's coach on youth teams for three years in his pre-teen days.
Larry Sr. later put together a fast-pitch softball team that had a lineup in which the first five names in the batting order were simply listed as: Walker, Walker, Walker, Walker, Walker. Larry, at age 15 the youngest of those Walkers, hit fourth. His three older brothers hit in front of him. His father hit behind him.
The experience whetted Walker's appetite, and by the next year, 1982, he began appearing on the radar of big league scouts. He was playing for the Coquitlam Reds, a British Columbia-based youth baseball team that played the bulk of its 65 games against teams from the state of Washington.
Bob Rogers, a scout for the Montreal Expos who lived in the Evergreen State, was intrigued by Walker's talent and "called about two weeks [after Walker dropped out of high school]," Larry Sr. explained. "Bob wanted to talk to Larry right away, so we met him in Vancouver the next day and talked about a contract with the Expos."
"I looked at Larry and asked, 'Do you want to play baseball?' He said, "I think I might try that.' I told him, 'OK, sign your name on the contract and let's go home.'"
Little did the Expos and the rest of baseball realize the payoff that would come from that $1,500 bonus Rogers and the Expos gave Walker. But it was not an easy path.
He made his pro debut in 1985 with the Utica (NY) Blue Sox, a short season Class A team in the New York-Penn League that had players from six different organizations. Though Cooperstown may only be a 45-minute drive from Utica, at the time it had to seem a world away to Walker, who hit only .223. ...
"He was raw when he showed up," said coach Gene Glynn, who was on he Rockies staff when Walker signed there as a free agent prior to the 1995 season. "But he probably learned the game faster than anybody. He would recognize what needed to be done and learn right away. He was never intimidated."
By the end of that season in Utica, there was talk of Walker being released. But Ralph Rowe, the Expos' roving hitting instructor, lobbied on his behalf, extolling Walker's raw potential and convincing the Expos to bring him to the Florida Instructional League.

L-R: Larry Walker as an Expo, Rockie, and Cardinal
The rest, as they say, is history. In 1986, Walker opened the season at Low-A Burlington and finished it at High-A West Palm Beach.
"If there was a light at the end of the tunnel, I guess it started there," Walker said. "I couldn't see it, but things got better. When I got promoted to West Palm Beach, that's when they started to talk about me actually having some ability."
He missed the entire 1988 season because of a knee injury suffered in winter ball, but on Aug. 16, 1989, Walker made his big league debut with the Expos. The next season - at age 23 - he became the team's starting right fielder.
For Walker, getting elected to the Hall of Fame was a bigger challenge than putting together a Hall of Fame-caliber career that spanned 17 seasons - beginning in Montreal, ending in St. Louis and with nearly 10 years as a member of the Colorado Rockies in between.
That time in Colorado was the last obstacle Walker had to clear to become the first player who wore a Rockies uniform to be enshrined in Cooperstown. The stigma of hitter-friendly Coors Field hung over him but a movement began following the 2017 season when he received 21.9% support from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Over the next three years, that momentum built, resulting in January's announcement that he had received 76.6% of the vote from the BBWAA ...
"You know those old records?" Walker said with a smile. "I'm the 'B' side." To those who managed him and managed against him, however, he's a Grade-A addition to Cooperstown.
"It was a no-brainer for me," said Jim Leyland, who managed against Walker over several years and in 1999 managed him with the Rockies. "Barry Bonds is the best player I ever managed, but Larry Walker was the best five-tool player I ever saw. There was nobody more impactful in a game than Larry Walker. He beat you all five ways - defense, his throwing, his base running, his hitting and his power. I can't believe it was ever a question."
Yes, he had impressive numbers at Coors Field, but it takes more than a home-field advantage for a player to win three batting titles, earn the NL MVP in 1997, become a five-time All-Star and win seven Gold Glove Awards - along with three Silver Slugger Awards. Add all of that together and it underscores the complete nature of his game.
"I mean, just a gifted all-around everything," said Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa. "In fact, I think he would probably be in the top three of just about every category: Base running, defense, handling the bat."
When you take into consideation his average, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, the only players in the history of the game who can match him are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams. Throw in Walker's 230 stolen bases and he stands alone. Of the five Hall of Famers who share that offensive platform with him, Ruth is a distant second in stolen bases with 123. His peers and the opposition understood that.
"He is better than one of the best," said Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox during Walker's playing days. "He is the best."