A Rockies Flavor to Most Influential Canadians
Former Rockies outfielder Larry Walker ranks No. 6 on Hall of Fame writer Bob Elliott's list of the most influential Canadians in baseball with current manager Bud Black No. 13, and former Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau checking in at No. 55.
Elliott points out that Black would qualify to either manage or pitch for Canada in the WBC. Black was born in Canada, but his father was a professional hockey player and so Black grew up in the United States while his father played primarily in the Western Hockey League, including time with the Portland Buckaroos.
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What Elliott has to say about the Canadians with Rockies ties:
6. Larry Walker, Hall of Fame candidate.
Walker has never received more than 22.9% of the required 75% in his first seven years from the Baseball Writers Association of America. He has not had a base hit since striking out in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in the ninth inning facing Astros Dan Wheeler. Yet, he is finally gaining traction this year. He has 2019 and 2020 as his final years on the ballot.
Walker jumped to 34.1% after being at 21.9% last year. He gained more votes (44) than anyone but Vladimir Guerrero (75). The knock by some against Walker has always been that he played in Denver, despite the fact he played 70% of his games elsewhere. As for the knock on road average, he batted .278 (90th) between Andre Dawson (.2783) and Max Carey (.2777); had an on-base mark of .370 between Joe Cronin (.371) and Duke Snider, Hank Aaron and Al Kaline (.369 each); slugged .495, which ranked 26th behind Larry Doby (.496) and ahead of Jim Bottomley (.486) and 168 home runs 37th, behind Al Kaline (173) and ahead of Gary Carter and Rickey Henderson (162 each).
Among HOF corner outfielders he is 13th in OPS+ (ahead of Billy Williams and Dave Winfield) and in WAR he is 14th (ahead of Willie Stargell and Williams). In 1997, he had a .443 on-base mark and slugged .733 on the road. At Coors he had 2,501 plate appearances compared to 5,529 other stadia. He had an on-base mark of .462 at home and .372 elsewhere. At home he slugged .710 and was .501 other places.
13. Buddy Black, manager, Colorado Rockies (6).
Harry “Bud” Ralston Black was accepting congratulations after the 2015 season. He had been let go by San Diego but was now hired by the Washington Nationals. One problem. The Nats pay their managers slightly over the pay grade for the head night security guard. So, when it came time to talk contract an agreement was not reached. Black was special assistant to the Angels GM in 2016 and last year managed the Rockies to 87 wins and post-season play for the first time since 2009.
Black is WBC eligible and able to take over for Ernie Whitt some day because his father Harry was born in the Edmonton area and his mom in Melville, Sask. His father was recruited from the Olds (Alberta) Elks to skate for UCLA in 1938. Buddy has managed his teams to 736 wins in his 10 seasons and went 121-116 in 15 years, including two wins in three starts for the 1990 Blue Jays, beating the Yankees and the Orioles. He played two seasons at San Diego State where he was a teammate of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and was a 1992 inductee into the SDSU Aztec Hall of Fame.
55. Justin Morneau, special assistant, Twins (48).
Morneau bounced out to SS Brandon Crawford for the final out of the WBC, as Team USA blanked Canada 8-0 before 22,303 fans at Marlins Park in Miami in March of 2017. Who knew it would be the final at-bat of his career. He made his major-league debut with the Twins June 10, 2003 against the Rockies. Walker sent a bat over to the Twins clubhouse, and inscribed it, “Welcome to the show, make Canada proud.”
Morneau did that. An MVP, a four-time all-star and winner of the most memorable home derby ever at Yankee Stadium, Morneau saw his career cut short due to a fluke play at second base. He made a routine slide into second like he had done 1,000s of time. Jays shortstop John McDonald leapt in the air and threw to first. But his knee accidently clipped Morneau giving him a concussion. Morneau will serve as one of the in-studio replacements for Gregg Zaun on Sportsnet, even though he has accepted a job as a special assistant with Minnesota. He joins former Twins Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins.