Canadian Larry Walker, Derek Jeter headed to Cooperstown

Larry Walker with the St. Louis Cardinals. Photo courtesy Googie Man/Wikipedia.

Larry Walker has become the second Canadian-born player in history to be inducted into baseball’s pantheon.

The retired Major League outfielder and a native of British Columbia will join New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter as the 2020 inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Walker and Jeter were voted into the Hall by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA).

Walker surpassed the 75 per cent threshold of all writers’ ballots cast on his 10th and final year on the ballot. Jeter came just one vote shy of becoming the second player to be inducted into the Hall unanimously.

Walker joins Chatham native Fergie Jenkins as the only two Canadian-born players to be voted into Cooperstown. However, five players, a manager and a team executive are enshrined who have been with the Toronto Blue Jays and the former Montreal Expos for a good portion of their careers. The players are Roberto Alomar, Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Roy Halladay, and Tim Raines, along with manager Dick Williams and Jays executive Pat Gillick.

The 53-year-old Walker was born in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, outside of Vancouver. As a boy, he played both hockey and baseball but realized his talent was on the diamond. He was invited by the Montreal Expos to their training camp in 1985 (Canadians were not eligible for the MLB Draft at the time) and made the organization. His big-league debut was in August 1989 for the Expos.

Following his departure from the Expos in free agency after the strike-shortened 1994 season, Walker signed with the Colorado Rockies, where he played for over nine seasons. In 2004, the rebuilding Rockies traded Walker to the St. Louis Cardinals. He retired from baseball after the 2005 campaign.

Walker finished his career with a .313 batting average, 2,160 hits, 383 home runs, and 1,311 runs batted in. He was the 1997 National League Most Valuable Player, won the NL batting title three times, played in five All-Star Games, won seven Gold Glove Awards and three Silver Slugger Awards.

After his playing days, Walker went into coaching. He has been with the Canadian national team since 2009. He was on the staff that won the gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico, then again in 2015 at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Both times, they beat the United States for the title.

Jeter, 45, was born in New Jersey but grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He played college baseball for the University of Michigan and was drafted sixth overall by the Yankees in the 1992 MLB Draft. He made the big-league team in May 1995 and played his entire 20-year career with the Yankees as a shortstop.

When Jeter retired in 2014, he had won five World Series with the Yankees, was a 14-time All-Star, won five Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers apiece, and was named the AL Rookie of the Year in 1996. He also won the Robert Clemente Award in 2009 and two AL Hank Aaron Awards. He finished his career with a .310 batting average, 3,465 hits, 260 home runs, and 1,311 runs batted in. Jeter is currently a part-owner and the CEO of the Miami Marlins.

With Walker and Jeter entering Cooperstown via a writers’ vote, they will join catcher Ted Simmons and executive Marvin Miller in the class of 2020. Simmons and Miller were chosen by the Hall’s Modern Baseball Era Committee. Also being inducted this year are Nick Cafardo, the late Boston Globe writer and winner of the Spink Award for baseball writing; and Ken Harrelson, a longtime play-by-play announcer for the Chicago White Sox, and winner of the Ford Frick Award for baseball broadcasting.