Larry Walker compared himself to the “B” side of an old 45-rpm record after he learned on Tuesday night that he would join Derek Jeter in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.
But he was not complaining, not after completing a meteoric rise in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and qualifying by six votes in his 10th and final year on the regular ballot.
Before the vote was announced, Walker posted a tweet saying he believed he would fall short and thanking fans for their support.
Afterward, he appeared on the MLB Network — wearing a SpongeBob SquarePants shirt — and said the surprise made it all the sweeter.
“That call comes and all of a sudden you can’t breathe,” he said, adding, “It was so special. I barely remember the moment. I was kind of floating on air.”
Later, on a conference call with reporters, Walker said he had calculated he would be named on 73.3% of ballots. In fact, he was named on 304 of 397 (76.6% ) to surpass the 75% minimum.
He said he was 90 seconds away from giving up on getting a call from the Hall and watching the rest of the selection show on television.
“Then that number popped up on the phone and I think I uttered the words, ‘Oh, ----,’ and then maybe an, ‘Oh, my God,’ before I actually answered the phone and said hello,” he said.
His 22% jump over 2019 was the highest for a player in his final year of eligibility in 65 years, according to the Hall of Fame.
The outfielder, a native of British Columbia, joined Ferguson Jenkins (1991) as the only Canadians in the Hall of Fame, and became the first Colorado Rockies player elected to the Hall.
The latter could impact the chances of other Rockies, such as Todd Helton (named on 29.2% of ballots), because historically many discount statistics from hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Walker, 53, batted .313 with 383 home runs in 17 seasons with the Expos, Rockies and Cardinals. In 1997, he was the National League MVP after hitting .366 and leading the NL with 49 home runs and 409 total bases for Colorado.
A three-time batting champion, Walker also won seven Gold Glove Awards as an outfielder.
Walker spoke of getting a later start in the sport than many American players. He spent more time playing fastpitch softball than hardball in his youth, and did not fully give up hockey for baseball until he was 16.
As for the Coors Field Effect, Walker said his election made a statement that could echo for future generations playing in the thin air of Denver.
“I’m good with people that are maybe against it because they feel [there are] advantages you get, I guess,” he said. “But I think in the long run it’s a major league baseball team. It’s a franchise like any other one.”
The only player other than Jeter and Walker to hit the 70% mark was Curt Schilling at an even 70.0. He is considered a strong candidate to reach the needed total next year, which will be his ninth on the ballot.
Larry Walker’s Hall of Fame voting percentages took a big jump in the past three ballots, enabling him to be elected in his final year of eligibility:
Year Pct. of Vote