Walker hits three doubles as Rockies open Coors Field
Neither Larry Walker nor Coors Field could have asked for a warmer welcome than the one they both received on April 26, 1995.
It took 14 innings – but the Rockies eventually captured their first win in their new home ballpark, while free agent acquisition Walker led the way with three run-scoring doubles in the 11-9 home opener victory over the Mets.
“I think we need to start winning these things in nine innings – before it gets to 10 below (zero),” Walker told the Coloradoan after a game that started with the temperature at 42 degrees and got colder as the night progressed.
Walker had signed with the Rockies less than a month earlier, inking a deal as a free agent on April 8, shortly after the conclusion of the work stoppage, which truncated the 1994 season and delayed the 1995 campaign. The future Hall of Fame right fielder had spent the previous six years of his career with the Montreal Expos, having signed with the club as an amateur free agent in 1984.
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Walker came out swinging in his first home game with Colorado, opening the scoring with an RBI double in the bottom of the first. He tacked on another run-scoring double in the third to extend the Rockies’ lead to 3-0.
After grounding out in the fifth and flying out in the seventh, Walker came to the plate at a pivotal moment in the bottom of the ninth. The Rockies trailed 7-6, with a runner on first and two outs.
With the game on the line, Walker delivered, lining a double to right that tied the game at 7-7 to force extra innings.
The Mets would score two more times in extras – but Colorado kept clawing back. With the Rockies trailing 9-8 in the bottom of the 14th, Dante Bichette came through with a dramatic three-run walk-off homer to complete the come-from-behind victory.
“Our greatest win was our home opener in 1993,” Rockies manager Don Baylor said, referring to the franchise’s inaugural home opener. “It was our first win, and you can’t beat that. But this game rivals that first one. We were in a new ballpark tonight, it was opening night on ESPN and we just kept coming back. This game goes side-by-side with that one.”
The crowd of 47,228 in Denver was thrilled with the performance of their new star, who went 3-for-7 with three RBI.
“Oh man, my first game ever here and they’re chanting my name,” Walker told the Daily Sentinel. “I’ve had it done before, but not that quick. I just got here. I got a warm reception and I feel real comfortable.”
The thrilling 1995 home opener was just the beginning of an illustrious tenure in Colorado for Walker. In his 10 years with the Rockies, he batted .334 with a 1.044 OPS and 258 homers, while capturing the 1997 NL MVP Award, five Gold Glove Awards, three batting titles and four All-Star selections.
In August 2004, Walker was dealt to St. Louis, where he would close out his career a year later following the 2005 season.
Over his 17 years in the big leagues, Walker batted .313 with 383 homers, 2,160 hits and a .965 OPS. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2020.
Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum