Monday, September 24, 2012

Larry Walker Jersey Card

The work stoppage in the NHL is upon us, and neither side plans on resuming CBA talks any time soon, which makes Montrealers like myself sick. It's the third such conflict (and third lock-out) in the NHL under Gary Bettman's reign of 18 years, and this time around he faces NHLPA boss Donald Fehr, who was behind baseball's players' strike of 1994, which cost the Montréal Expos a probable World Series participation against the New York Yankees (both teams led their respective leagues by a fair margin, the Expos led the majors at the time of stoppage).

And while strikes and lock-outs are the opposite of one another, and I won't debate which is best when or whatnot, for the fan of the sport, they result in the same: no games. And in the case of MLB '94 and NHL 2004-05, no championships.

The 1994 Expos were a weird beast for me, because their field players were young and coming into their own (think of the Québec Nordiques of 1992-95 who would end up winning the Stanley Cup as the Colorado Avalanche), but also because these kids were taking over for players I'd grown up adoring, from LF Tim Raines to CF André Dawson, catchers Gary Carter and Mike Fitzgerald, 3B Tim Wallach, error-free SS Spike Owen - all replaced by Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Darrin Fletcher, Sean Berry, and Wilfredo Cordero, respectively. Most of these guys grew up in the team's system together and could be more than one type of player, with above-average power coupled with extraordinary speed, not the one-dimensional players of the past - but without their charisma, too.

The Expos' pitching, in 1994, however, was the best cast I'd ever seen assembled, with Ken Hill, Jeff Fassero and Pedro Martinez starring in the rotation, Denis Boucher, Butch Henry and Kirk Rueter filling in both as 4th- starters or long-term relief, Jeff Shaw and Mel Rojas to set the table in the 8th inning and John Wetteland to shut down the opposition in the 9th.

And, of course, a new star player in the right field, Larry Walker, who showed promise as the guy who would perhaps become MLB's second ever 40/40 man (40 home runs and 40 stolen bases), in addition to being a regular 100-RBI guy. As a matter of fact, in 1994, he was at 86 RBIs when the players called their strike, well on his way.

He never got to 40/40, but he is still the only player ever to have stolen 25 bases and gotten a slugging percentage of .700 in a season, in his magical 1997 season with the Colorado Rockies. Yes, the Rockies, because when the 1994 season was called to an end, the Expos couldn't retain their blossoming young players anymore and had to watch other teams give them salaries they couldn't afford to match, and proceed to their first real fire sale, trading off their good players for prospects, in essence becoming the Major Leagues' best farm club.

But Walker made a name for himself outside of Montréal. In 1995, he brought the Rockies to their first-ever playoff participation. In 1997, he became the first Canadian to be named National League MVP. All in all, he played in 5 All Star games (1992, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001), won a staggering 7 Golden Gloves as best defensive player at his position with his rocket-for-an-arm (1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002), and got 3 batting titles. He has led the league in different offensive categories 12 times.

This jersey card (#TR-LW) is from Topps' 2003 Topps 205 set, and features a piece of authentic game-worn jersey that shows a white swatch with a purple Rockies' line going through it. It's a pretty cool card because it features a miniature card fitted into a larger, regular-card-sized frame, with a see-though plastic encasing in which the smaller card is enclosed.

I got this card in a trade a few years ago, for a bunch of baseball, football and basketball cards.

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