NEW YORK -- Larry Walker is known as a guy who loves to pull pranks and crack jokes. When he was officially introduced with Derek Jeter as the newest members of the Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon, quite a few members of the media were expecting Walker to wear
NEW YORK -- Larry Walker is known as a guy who loves to pull pranks and crack jokes. When he was officially introduced with Derek Jeter as the newest members of the Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon, quite a few members of the media were expecting Walker to wear his SpongeBob shirt, the same one he wore the previous day when he learned of his election.
But there he was at the Wednesday news conference, and SpongeBob didn’t make an appearance. Walker was the man in black -- T-shirt, pants and shoes. After putting on his Hall of Fame jersey, Walker quipped, “This is way better than the SpongeBob shirt I wore yesterday.”
“No, it’s not,” Jeter jokingly replied.
So what was up with the shirt?
“I have no idea why I wore the shirt,” Walker said. “I walked in my closet. I knew we were going to sit outside. So I wanted something a little warmer. I got a couple of looks from [my kids]. They asked, ‘Are you really going to wear that?’ Today I received a message from [my daughter] and she said, ‘Go Dad, good choice on the SpongeBob. You are trending [on Twitter].’”
Walker joins Ferguson Jenkins as the second Canadian in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was Walker’s 10th and final year on the ballot, and he received enough votes -- 76.6 percent -- from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to be enshrined with Jeter on July 26 in Cooperstown.
• 2020 Hall of Fame election results
Then the text messages and e-mails came pouring in. Walker said he didn’t get to read all of them, but he remembered receiving messages from Hall of Famers Alan Trammell and Trevor Hoffman, and Walker said he couldn’t wait to see Jenkins in Cooperstown.
Walker will have a Rockies cap on his plaque, but it was a tough call, considering he spent a productive six years with the Montreal Expos.
“Obviously, it’s the Hall’s choice on the cap. I thought a lot about it today. I thought I’d clear that up,” Walker said. “It comes down to Montreal and Colorado. ... I spent 10 years in Colorado, where the majority of my damage was done. The years I spent there, there will be a Colorado hat [on the plaque]. It’s a hard decision.”
With Walker spending his entire career in the National League, and Jeter in the American League, the paths of the two Hall of Famers have not crossed often. But Wednesday wasn’t the first time Walker and Jeter spent time together. According to Walker, the two were in the Bahamas one year and played blackjack all night.
“A couple of times, we played against each other [on the baseball field] and said hello,” Walker remembered. “One other time, we were together in the Bahamas. I was playing blackjack with [actor] Matt Damon. Dinner came along and the three of us sat there and played blackjack.”
On the baseball field, Walker had a career to remember, putting up legendary numbers with the Expos, Rockies and Cardinals. When he retired after the 2005 season, Walker’s career WAR was 72.7, which surpassed Hall of Famers such as Tim Raines (69.4), Tony Gwynn (69.2), Andre Dawson (64.8), Dave Winfield (64.2) and Vladimir Guerrero (59.4). Walker’s best season was in 1997, when he won the NL MVP Award. That season, Walker hit .366 with 49 home runs, 130 RBIs and an MLB-leading .720 slugging percentage.
“I wouldn’t be [in the Hall of Fame] without any of my years in the big leagues,” Walker said. “I get it, Coors Field is a great place to hit. There was no backing away from that. With that, I believe I did it better than anybody else in that ballpark. That had to be some consideration on the success.”
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.