Larry Walker can now breathe a sigh of relief. The three-time National League batting champion, who compiled a .313 lifetime batting average, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by six votes in his 10th and final year of eligibility.
Walker was the 1997 National League MVP and won seven Gold Gloves. He ranks 12th all-time for slugging percentage, ahead of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
Here are some things to know about Walker, the second Canadian native elected to the Hall of Fame behind Ferguson Jenkins.
Hockey first: Walker’s high school -- Maple Ridge High School, in British Columbia -- did not have a baseball team, so he played hockey. Walker was a goaltender on teams that featured future Boston Bruins star Cam Neely. Walker tried out for the Regina Pats of the Junior A Western Hockey League, but gave up the sport when the offers were not to his liking. Walker’s older brother, Carey, was a goaltender who was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens but never played in the NHL.
Oh, Canada: Walker’s signature season was 1997, when he became the first Canadian-born player to win the National League MVP award. Walker led the National League with 49 home runs and finished second in the batting race with a .366 average. He drove in 130 runs and had 208 hits. Walker also had a .720 slugging percentage and stole 33 bases.
Coors light (air): Walker certainly was helped by the thin air at Denver’s Coors Field, where he played for 10 of his 17 seasons. However, he also hit .278 in road games during his career, which is higher than 33 position players in the Hall of Fame, according to Baseball America.
Blooper ball: Despite a strong throwing arm and his Gold Gloves, Walker made an embarrassing play during the third inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on April 24, 1994, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. Thinking there were three outs when he caught a fly ball near the right-field foul line, Walker handed the ball to 6-year-old Sebastian Napier. Walker soon realized there were only two outs, and the runner on first, Jose Offerman, was tagging up. Walker took the ball from the youth and threw it back to the infield, preventing Offerman from scoring. The next inning, Walker gave the boy another baseball and received a standing ovation.
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