Canada went 29 years between the induction of Ferguson Jenkins and Larry Walker to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but it likely won’t be that long a wait for the Canadian duo in Cooperstown to become a trio.
Toronto’s Joey Votto is a good bet for the Hall of Fame, but two things have to happen before he’ll be considered for enshrinement: 1. He has to retire from playing; and 2. He has to wait five years before his name appears on the ballot. Then, his name stays on the ballot for up to 10 years unless he achieves at least 75 per cent of the votes cast.
Jenkins, a star pitcher with the Cubs and Texas Rangers, grew up in Chatham, Ont., and was the first Canadian inducted into the Hall in 1991. Twenty-nine years went by before Walker, the pride of Maple Ridge, B.C., received the necessary number of votes in January (he got 76.6 per cent) in his 10th and final year on the ballot.
His first love being hockey, Walker, a goalie, concentrated on baseball after being cut twice by the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats. It was a wise choice. Signed by the Montreal Expos after being scouted at the world junior baseball championships in Kindersley, Sask., Walker played six seasons with the National League team and then signed a four-year deal for $22.5 million as a free agent with Colorado.
Walker’s career numbers were spectacular, and it’s shameful that Hall of Fame voters overlooked him for nine years before finally doing the right thing in his final year of eligibility. Graced with speed, power, and a terrific throwing arm, Walker batted .313 for his career, belted 383 home runs, stole 230 bases and had an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) of .965. That last figure ranks 11th among all Hall of Famers, trailing illustrious names like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig, but ahead of immortals such as Willie Mays, Johnny Mize, Ralph Kiner and Hank Aaron. In 1997, when Walker was voted Most Valuable Player in the N.L., he batted .366, slammed 49 homers, had an OPS of 1.172 and drove in 130 runs.
Walker’s father, Larry Walker, Sr., said he felt immense pride after the announcement. “There’ll be a lot more people … in Canada, trying to play the game of baseball because they want to be like Larry Walker,” he said in a CBC.com story.
Votto, meanwhile, should give Canada a hat trick of Hall of Famers when his name hits the ballot. Votto, 36, is currently 27th on that all-time OPS list. He’s signed with the Reds through 2024, when he’ll be 40 years old and probably ready to retire.
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