Walker tops Hall list

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Gene Glynn was coaching third when Larry Walker's pro career began.

He still was coaching when Walker's playing career reached its zenith as the National League most valuable player.

Although he's a time zone away, Glynn was as happy as when he shook Walker's hand after his first homer in the pro ranks in 1985 at Single-A Utica or when he shook his hand when the Colorado Rockies slugger hit his 49th of the season, his MVP year, 13 seasons later.

The best position player in Canadian history, Walker, of Maple Ridge, B.C., was an easy choice for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Besides Walker, also elected are former Blue Jay and Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt, from the Windsor, Ont., suburb of Clinton Township, Mich., and Bernie Soulliere, a former Windsor coach and a 40-year volunteer with provincial and national teams who is also the business manager of the Team Canada entry into the World Baseball Classic.

The late Doc Miller, of Chatham, Ont., who played from 1910 to 1914 with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Doves, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds, also will be honoured.

Walker, Whitt and Soulliere will all be at the Rogers Centre with Team Canada March 7 when Canada meets Team USA and on July 20 they'll be in St. Marys, where centre stage will belong to Walker.

"We haven't honoured a career the calibre of Walker's since Fergie Jenkins was inducted in 1987," said Hall president & CEO Tom Valcke.

Walker, who played 17 seasons in the major leagues and leads in every category but average (he retired with a .313 mark, second to Tip O'Neill) and triples, said: "the key word about this honour is the word 'Canadian.' "

"He was one of the most respected players of his era," Glynn said from Waseca, Minn. He coached 13 seasons, all in the NL with the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Rockies.

"When you ask who was the best base runner of that era, the answer was Walker. Best right fielder? Walker, Best No. 3 hitter? Walker," Glynn said. "I can't think of any one you feared more save for Barry Bonds."

Glynn, now a scout with Tampa Bay, is told that this is the Canadian Hall in St. Marys -- not Cooperstown, N.Y.

"Well, Tony Gwynn had more hits, Mark McGwire had more homers, Todd Helton is a feared hitter, but Walker could impact a game more than anyone I mentioned," Glynn said. "I saw Sammy Sosa, Barry Larkin and Raul Mondesi. If I had a vote, Walker has to be in the top five from that era for Cooperstown.

Walker will remains a Cooperstown longshot when he appears on the ballot two years from now.

"The thing that never gets mentioned when people discuss Walker is how much impact he had on his own team," Glynn said. "In 1995, when we had Joe Girardi, Andres Galarraga, Eric Young, Vinny Castilla, Walt Weiss, Dante Bichette and Ellis Burks, he made an impact on that team in so many ways."

Five times Walker was an all-star and he won three batting titles.

"Larry is special, so unique and down-to-earth, a true Canadian," said Greg Hamilton, director of national teams for Baseball Canada. "We are fortunate to have Larry involved with the national teams program. He has set the standard by which all Canadian position players are measured and his easy-going manner makes him a natural on our coaching staff."

Soulliere coached Windsor teams to four Ontario championships and a two national titles in the 1970s and chaired the World Juniors in 1986, 1987 and 1993.

He was also Team Ontario GM when it won three consecutive Canada Summer Games gold medals in 1981, '85 and '89.

Walker and Soulliere will support Whitt in the WBC.

Now, if only one of them could contribute a couple of innings.


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