DENVER -- The number 3 has been special for Larry Walker.
From his Minor League baseball days to the present, he has been superstitious about that number. It’s why he took three practice swings in the on-deck circle before going to the plate. It’s why he got married at 3:33 p.m. It’s why he had three rolls of his favorite sushi delivered to him before every home game.
And it’s why he wore No. 33 throughout his Hall of Fame career.
That number was officially retired by the Rockies on Saturday night at Coors Field before Colorado’s game against the Giants, joining Todd Helton’s No. 17 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 on the façade of the second deck in right-center field. No Rockie will ever don No. 33 again.
Seventeen days after he was officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the first member of the Rockies, the second Canadian-born player (Fergie Jenkins is the other), and yes, the 333rd individual to be enshrined in Cooperstown, Walker was feted before the fans in the city where his Hall of Fame credentials were burnished.
“I just want to say a huge thank you to my teammates -- many of them are here today, as well as those who are not here,” Walker said. “The Hall of Fame and this number retirement do not happen without every one of my teammates.
“… Behind me, a certain Hall of Fame plaque made its way from Cooperstown. I know a lot of you fans will take a photo with it today, and I hope you’ll visit it at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. But when you look at it, I want you to see your face, not mine. All of you are the reason this team exists. When I [talk about] the plaque, I say ‘we,’ not ‘I’ have a plaque in Cooperstown.”
Walker has said he never dreamed during his 10 seasons in a Rockies uniform that he would reach a moment like Saturday’s. But his accomplishments tell a different story: While with Colorado from 1995-2004, Walker won three batting titles (1998, '99 and 2001), five of his seven career Gold Glove Awards in right field, and the 1997 National League MVP Award. He remains the only Rockies player to have ever been named league MVP.
The lead-up to Saturday’s festivities was noteworthy in itself. Naturally, the No. 3 continued to surface in all kinds of ways for Walker.
“I walked by my daughter’s room as I was on my way down here just to say, ‘Hey, I’ll see you later tonight at the ballpark,'” Walker said. “And she told me -- I guess she and her boyfriend saw these big, goofy necklaces like the Padres wear after a home run, and she says, ‘Yeah, we went down there and got that and a couple of other things, and Dad ... the total was $33.’”
Despite everything he’s experienced since it was announced in January 2020 that he was elected to the Hall of Fame, it still hasn’t completely sunk in for Walker. He said before the ceremony that he wasn’t as nervous for Saturday as he was for his Cooperstown induction, mainly because this time, he’d be delivering a speech while standing on a baseball field -- the one where he rose to prominence in the Majors.
He was still nervous, though.
“I’ve been up at 3:30 in the morning every night I’ve been here,” he said. “I’ve been here for three days now, and every time I go to bed, at 3:30, I’m waking up and [the speech] is in my head again.”
The speeches are over now, and Walker can finally get some sleep. But the No. 33 will forever be etched in Rockies lore.
“There’s no bigger honor a club can give you,” Walker said. “I’m thrilled by it. When I got the phone call and [team owner] Dick [Monfort] told me, and after I hung up the phone, I was like, ‘Oh my God, no Rockie is going to ever wear No. 33 again.'”