514 to HOF: Larry Walker Immortalized in Cooperstown.

Larry Walker’s induction to the Hall of Fame took me somewhat by surprise last night.  The news broke right before our podcast went to air (speaking of which, remember to watch, like and subscribe) and we made sure to cram it in on a busy slate. We did that because Larry Walker is truly an important player for us at Hot Sauce Sports.

I am slightly annoyed by most of the MLB media referring to Walker as a former “Colorado Rockies’ star”.  For Montrealers Booger will always be one of the greatest Montreal Expos of all time.  I remember sitting in the crowd as a child and seeing him gun down runners at first or third from right field.  His defensive skill was only matched by his plate discipline, natural speed, and power.  The dude was an absolute rock star on the diamond!

I also do not think I’m alone in looking back at Larry Walker as the last great memory of my, now defunct, favourite baseball team.  When I was growing up the Expos were everything.  My father would regale me with tales of watching the team at Jarry Park, years before they would move to the cavernous Olympic Stadium.  I remember working nights in my first job and listening to Dave Van Horne call the game on the radio.  I got in trouble constantly for rocking my Walkman sport on working hours but I could not spend the entire night wondering about the fate of my Expos. 

During the 1993 season the Expos fate seemed as though it were headed for glory.  After winning 94 games and returning with roughly the same roster while adding Pedro Martinez, the Expos looked to be a true contender for the first time in my fandom.  Sadly, despite performing at a dominant pace (.694 win percentage) the MLB owners decided to hold a lockout with 29 games remaining and the remainder of the season was cnacelled.  Despite being one of the richest ownership groups at that time and Montreal being the fifth largest market in the MLB at that time, they instructed then General manager Kevin Malone to cut payroll in the subsequent season.

In my mind, it is not merely coincidence that former Expos GM Kevin Malone shares his namesake with the blubbering, incompetent, chilli-dropping character from NBC’s hit show The Office.  I have so much disdain for the way the team was managed in the years succeeding the lockout the names Claude Brochu, Kevin Malone and Jeffery Loria are banned in my household to this day.  From dismantling a great team to trying to bankrupt my city by asking for public funds to build a new stadium (see Miami Marlins) did nothing but break my heart over and over.

Yet, one thing hurt above all else.  Seeing Larry Walker wearing a Colorado Rockies jersey was simply painful.  My once favourite player was now playing for a rival NL team.  I always did cheer for his personal success.  While I’ve had the opportunity to watch great players play in amazing cities I’ve never experienced anything like seeing #33 in my hometown.  While in the following years I would get to see Vlad Guerrero grace the Olympic Stadium it never quite felt the same.  Expos ownership took that feel-good away and nothing would ever recapture it.  So, congratulations Larry Walker! The Baseball Hall of Fame is truly served by having this great baseball player grace its halls.  Thank you for the memories.  I will never forget RDS announcers chanting Walker, Walker, Walker after a game winning walk-off home run!        

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