Wish You’d Won With the ‘Spos, Larry

I wanted to write about Larry Walker. Lest we forget — Canucks and any fans who like their baseball smart and skilled, a little folksy and funny — Walker preceded Steve Nash as The Lad from HockeyLand who made good in American sport.

Walker made it best in American sport, winning the National League MVP in 1997. In my idealistic universe, of course, he’d have done it as the right fielder for the Montreal Expos (long may their goofy caps reign) rather than the Colorado Rockies. The view of sportswriters I respect is that he’ll never make the Hall of Fame – too many injuries, too late a start in the bigs – but that won’t bother Walker too much, I don’t think. It’s hard to tell how badly he felt, after his MVP year, when he wasn’t even named Canada’s top athlete. (Jacques Villeneuve was; as Walker cracked, “I got beat by a car.”)

I wish I’d seen him play more. He had a sensational gun from the outfield, ran the bases brilliantly, and had that gorgeous left-handed swing. Not bad for a failed goaltender. Too bad that he got on the wrong side of the Red Sox exorcism last year, and fell just sort of the Series again this fall. He went with a laugh and that usual hoser straight-talk. He was the best ballplayer we’ve ever had come out of Canada, and I’m sad to see him go.