#Shortstops: Sponge soaks Walker in glory

Written by: Isabelle Minasian

It’s not unusual for celebrities to be among the many who congratulate Hall of Famers upon their elections, but Larry Walker received some kudos from an unexpected source after he was elected into the Hall of Fame on Jan. 21, 2020.

“Hello, Larry,” the bespectacled man begins, “It’s Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants. Congratulations, and I’ve gotta say, it was a real thrill to be a part of your Hall of Fame phone call moment.”

Kenny’s voice rises higher, taking on the distinctly nasally sound of the famous Nickelodeon cartoon, “And just between you and me, I have a lucky shirt too!” Kenny unzips his hoodie to reveal a Colorado Rockies T-shirt, and laughs in SpongeBob’s characteristic way.

So, how exactly did Kenny, and his iconic undersea character, come to be part of the day that Larry Walker made it to Cooperstown? To understand that piece of the story, one need only look at the video.

Surrounded by friends and family in the backyard of his Florida home on the day of the 2020 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame election, Walker answered BBWAA secretary Jack O’Connell’s phone call – which he mused to O’Connell must be his “favorite call of the year…it sure is mine” – wearing a black and yellow SpongeBob SquarePants shirt.

Later that afternoon, in an interview with MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger, Walker still had it on.

A black, NASCAR-style button-front shirt with “SpongeBob” scrawled in neon yellow across one shoulder and “SquarePants” on the other – some added clarity, perhaps, in case the all-caps “Ain’t no ordinary sponge” or enormous embroidered depiction of the cartoon on the front wasn’t enough – it was an immediate sensation.

Broadcasters, writers and fans shared their support for Walker’s sartorial decision. And the shirt itself, found at online retailers for less than $20, sold out at many sites.

The slugging Canadian hadn’t expected the overwhelming attention his fashion garnered, but that was far from the biggest surprise of the day.

“My kids thought I was a little goofy, like ‘why are you wearing that?’” he explained. “But then again, I wasn’t expecting a phone call and then a video to be taken and put all over the internet. So everything was kind of an on-a-whim surprise. But it all turned out good.”

The next day, Larry Walker took the stage for the first time as a Hall of Famer at a press conference in New York City, and even his Class of 2020 classmate Derek Jeter couldn’t resist joking about Walker’s attire.

“This is way better than that SpongeBob shirt I wore yesterday,” Walker quipped as he and Jeter settled on stage in front of the media, both dressed in the Hall of Fame’s distinctive cream, red and blue jerseys.

“No, it’s really not,” Jeter joked.

The shirt is now on display at the Hall of Fame in the Museum’s Today’s Game exhibit, in all its cartoon glory.

SpongeBob may be no ordinary sponge, but Larry Walker is certainly no ordinary Hall of Famer.

Isabelle Minasian was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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