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Canadian slugger Larry Walker named to Baseball Hall of Fame in his final year on the ballot
MONTREAL -- Larry Walker, a fearsome hitter and fleet outfielder who played for three Major League Baseball teams - including the Montreal Expos - in his 17-year career, was named Tuesday to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his 10th and final year on the ballot.
Walker received votes from 76.6 per cent of baseball writers who vote on the Baseball Hall of Fame - just over the 75-per-cent threshold required for induction.
"I think I was quoted earlier saying that I didn't think it would happen and I actually truly meant that," Walker told MLB Network after the vote was revealed, referencing a tweet he sent out earlier in the day. "I had the numbers in my head and was prepared for no call and then the opposite happened and that call comes and all of a sudden you can't breathe.
"The day flew by pretty quick but when that phone rang and I saw that number, yeah, the heart skips a beat."
"And just to hear them ask if they could speak to Larry Walker, and the rest was almost in disbelief to hear them say 'you didn't come up short this year, you passed the 75 per cent threshold and welcome to the Hall of Fame.' Pretty amazing."
The former Colorado Rockies and Montreal Expos slugger is the second Canadian elected to the Hall of Fame. Pitcher Fergie Jenkins of Chatham, Ont., was inducted in 1991.
The 77-year-old Jenkins sent Walker a congratulatory message on Twitter moments after the announcement.
"As the first Canadian Hall of Famer ever inducted, I couldn't be prouder and happier to welcome my friend and fellow Canadian Larry Walker to the Hall!" he said.
He will be joined by New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in the hall of fame's 2020 class, which was announced Tuesday evening.
Walker broke into Major League Baseball with the Expos in 1989. The right-fielder, known for his power hitting, strong throwing arm and speedy base-running, thrilled Expos fans in his six seasons with the team, before departing as a free agent after the strike-shortened 1994 season, which ended with the Expos having the best record in baseball.
Walker, a 53-year-old native of Maple Ridge, B.C., played for the Expos, Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals during his 17 seasons in Major League Baseball.
He was named most valuable player with the Rockies in 1997 and was a member of the Cardinals team that played in the World Series in 2004 (losing to the Boston Red Sox).
Walker was a five-time all-star and seven-time Gold Glover who led Major League Baseball in batting average for three seasons: 1998, 1999 and 2001.
Walker - who hit .313 with 2,160 hits, 383 home runs and 1,311 RBI in his MLB career - was one of 32 players on the Hall of Fame ballot for 2020.
Despite his special place in the heart of Expos fans, Walker will likely be enshrined as a member of the Rockies, where he played for more than half his career.
He won the NL MVP award in 1997 with the Rockies, when he hit an eye-popping .366 with a league-best 49 homers, 46 doubles and a career-high 130 runs batted in. His .452 on-base percentage that year, as well as his .720 slugging, also topped the NL.
Walker is also a three-time NL batting champion -- hitting .363 in 1998, .379 in 1999 and .350 in 2001.
Walker signed with the Expos as an amateur free agent as a 17-year-old in 1984, five years before Canadians were first eligible for the MLB draft.
He made his MLB debut in 1989 and played six seasons with Montreal before signing a free-agent deal with Colorado. He capped his career with 144 games over parts of two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals from 2004-05.
Walker had received 54.6 per cent of the votes last year in his ninth year on the ballot, up from the 34.1 per cent he received in 2018.
The Rockies announced last week that they will be retiring Walkers No. 33 this season.
The Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2020 will be inducted July 26 in Cooperstown, New York.
With reports from The Canadian Press