DENVER -- The Rockies announced Friday that they will officially retire jersey number 33 in honor of former star right fielder Larry Walker, who played for Colorado from 1995 to 2004, and found out Tuesday that he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 10th and final
DENVER -- The Rockies announced Friday that they will officially retire jersey number 33 in honor of former star right fielder Larry Walker, who played for Colorado from 1995 to 2004, and found out Tuesday that he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 10th and final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.
The jersey retirement ceremony will take place on April 19 at Coors Field prior to the Rockies' 1:10 p.m. MT game against the Cardinals, with whom Walker finished his career in 2005.
“There is no bigger honor an organization can give a player than retiring his number,” Walker said on Thursday. “Today, [Rockies owner/chairman & CEO] Dick Monfort called to say that they are going to retire No. 33! I can’t tell you how taken aback I am by this gesture. I am both thrilled and honored and I look forward to seeing my number hanging next to the greatest Rockie of all time, No. 17!"
Todd Helton's No. 17 and Jackie Robinson's No. 42, which was retired by MLB in 1997, are the only numbers retired by the Rockies franchise and are displayed on the second-deck facade in right field at Coors Field, next to the initials "KSM" in honor of late Rockies president Keli McGregor.
Even when Walker's number was not officially retired, the Rockies have generally steered clear of issuing it. In 2012, pitcher John Maine wore it during Spring Training but never appeared in a regular-season game for the club. The only time it was worn was when fellow Canadian Justin Morneau, who wore 33 with distinction for the Twins, sought and received blessing from Walker to wear it for the Rockies from '14-15.
Walker played 17 seasons in the Majors, from 1989 to 2005, a period over which only four players in baseball produced a higher value in terms of Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement (WAR). His 72.7 ranked only behind Barry Bonds (139.9), Ken Griffey Jr. (83), Alex Rodriguez (80.5) and Jeff Bagwell (79.9).
Walker was voted the 1997 National League Most Valuable Player after hitting .366/.452/.720 with 49 home runs and 33 steals, posting a road OPS of 1.176, even higher than his home OPS of 1.169 that year. He remains the only Rockies player to have ever won the MVP Award.
In all, Walker finished with a batting line of .313/.400/.565, with a park-adjusted OPS of 141, indicating that with the hitter-friendly environment of Coors Field factored in, his offensive performance throughout his career was 41 percent better than the league average. He hit 383 home runs, stole 230 bases and was selected as an All-Star five times. He also won batting average titles in 1998, '99 and 2001.
Walker was the quintessential five-tool player -- he not only hit, hit for power and ran the bases well, but he also won seven career NL Gold Glove Awards in right field.
In Rockies history, Walker ranks first in batting average (.334), on-base percentage (.426) and slugging percentage (.618). He ranks second behind Helton in runs, hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs.
“Larry Walker carried all five tools and was the most instinctive player I have ever seen play the game,” said Monfort. “He put together 17 incredible years in the big leagues. No. 33 hanging in Coors Field will be a constant reminder of the vast talent of Larry Walker that we were all so lucky to witness here in Colorado.”
Prior to joining the Rockies as a free agent in 1995, Walker played the first six seasons of his career with the Expos. In 2004, Colorado traded him to St. Louis, where he would help the Cardinals reach the World Series that year before retiring following the '05 season.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.