Larry Walker

August 6, 2004: Cardinals trade for Larry Walker as they make World Series push

One week after the 2004 trade deadline, the Cardinals added future Hall of Famer Larry Walker to a lineup that already included Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds.

The Cardinals received Walker and cash considerations in exchange for minor league pitcher Jason Burch and two players to be named later. In August, the Cardinals announced that Luis Martinez and Chris Narveson would go to Colorado to complete the deal.

“You look at this lineup and you wonder, ‘How can it get any better?’ and it did,” said Cardinals outfielder Reggie Sanders.

With more than 10 years of experience, including five with the same team, Walker had the power to decline any trade. In fact, he already had declined a trade to the Diamondbacks for Matt Williams in 2002, and blocked trades to the Rangers and Marlins before the 2004 trade deadline.

“I think there were some people in Colorado who weren’t certain he would come (to St. Louis),” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. “I talked to a few of the players over the last few days and I expressed to Larry how excited they were about the possibility of his coming. … He weighed everything and it didn’t take him long.”[1]

Rockies general manager said that a key goal for the Rockies in trading Walker was to get him on a team where he could compete for a championship.

“Larry is 38 and he was not going to be with us after next year,” O’Dowd said. “This gave us the best opportunity to put him somewhere with a chance to win, and it gives (rookie) Matt Holliday the opportunity to play every day.”[2]

A native of Maple Ridge, Canada, Walker had grown up playing baseball and hockey, and had dreams of becoming an NHL goalie. Instead, the Expos signed him in 1984 and sent him to Utica in the New York Penn League. In 1989, he made his major league debut, the first of six seasons he would spend in Montreal. Three years later, in 1992, he made his first all-star appearance, batting .301/.353/.506 with 23 homers and 93 RBIs.

Prior to the 1995 season, Walker signed with the Rockies, where he proceeded to enjoy the best seasons of his career. In 1997, Walker won the National League MVP after batting .366/.452/.720 with a major league-leading 49 home runs. In 1998, 1999, and 2001, he posted the highest batting average in baseball.

“I was shocked and surprised,” Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said about the trade. “I have never played a game without him here. He is the best Rockies player ever.”[3]

A groin strain had limited Walker to just 38 games that season, though he had been effective when he took the field. He played his first game of the season on June 22, and three days later went 4-for-6 with three home runs and five RBIs. At the time of the trade, he was batting .324/.464/.630 with six homers and 20 RBIs.

“I think he’ll be energized to come here and play with us, and I think he’ll energize our club,” Jocketty said. “He’s a gamer. He’s a hard-nosed player and a winner, and he’ll have no trouble fitting in with this club.”[4]

Burch was a 6-foot-5 right-hander the Cardinals drafted in the 21st round in 2003. Between rookie league Johnson City and Class A Peoria, Burch made 30 relief appearances that year. At the time of the trade, he had made 44 appearances for Peoria in 2004, posting a 3.78 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings.

Martinez, a 6-foot-6 southpaw from the Dominican Republic, had appeared in four games for the Brewers in 2003, going 0-3 with a 9.92 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. The Cardinals had picked him up off waivers in February.

Narveson had been the Cardinals’ second-round pick in 2000. At the time of the trade, he was 5-10 with a 4.16 ERA for Double-A Tennessee. The year-before, he had posted a 2.91 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 148 1/3 innings between High-A Palm Beach and Double-A Tennessee.

Burch never climbed above Double-A. After the 2006 season, the Rockies traded Burch and Jim Miller to the Orioles as part of a package for Rodrigo Lopez. He retired following the 2008 season.

Martinez finished the 2004 season in Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he went 2-2 with a 6.83 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. The Rockies released him after the season, and Martinez played in the Japan Central League, the Chinese Professional Baseball League, the Mexican League, the Dominican Winter League, and the United Baseball League before retiring following the 2010 season.

Narveson spent the remainder of 2004 in Triple-A Colorado Springs. Prior to the 2005 season, the Rockies traded Narveson and Charles Johnson to the Red Sox for Byung-Hyun Kim and cash. The Cardinals picked Narveson up off waivers that August, and in 2006 he pitched in five games, starting one.

After spending 2007 in the minors, Narveson signed with the Brewers. He returned to the majors in 2009 and spent five seasons with the big-league club, going 26-18 with a 4.65 ERA. In 2011, he made six postseason relief appearances for the Brewers, including four against the Cardinals in the NLCS. Narveson pitched in Japan in 2014 before playing his final two major-league seasons in Miami.

Meanwhile, Walker appeared in 44 regular-season games for the Cardinals, batting .280/.393/.560 with 11 homers and 27 RBIs. With Walker adding depth to an already potent lineup, the Cardinals won the NL Central with a 105-57 record.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Walker hit two homers and scored four times. He went 5-for-15 in the four-game series.

In Game 1 of the NLCS against the Astros, Walker singled, doubled, and tripled. In the seven-game series, he went 7-for-29 with two homers and five RBIs.

With the Cardinals’ Game 7 NLCS win, Walker reached the World Series for the first and only time in his career. Once again, he started the series on the right note, hitting a home run and two doubles in a 4-for-5 performance. He homered again in Game 3.

Walker played 100 games in his final season in 2005. Despite playing with a herniated disc in his neck that made it impossible to turn his head to the left, he hit .289/.384/.502 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs. In the postseason, he went just 3-for-28. He retired shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated in the NLCS.

In 2020, in his 10th year on the ballot, Walker was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“Finishing with the St. Louis Cardinals – I’m not a baseball historian, but when you talk about organizations, you usually talk about the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cubs, the Cardinals,” he said. “Those are the iconic organizations that people know about around the world – a uniform that is recognizable around the world. I’ll never forget that first day walking in the clubhouse and putting that white birds on the bat uniform over my head. It was a great way to go out.”[5]

Enjoy this post? Find similar stories listed by decade or by player.

[1] Rick Hummel, “Cards, Rockies deal after Walker’s OK,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 7, 2004.

[2] Associated Press, “Goodbye, Larry,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, August 7, 2004.

[3] Associated Press, “So far, so good for Walker-less Rockies,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, August 7, 2004.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Cards, Rockies deal after Walker’s OK,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 7, 2004.

[5] Derrick Goold, “Walker joins Jeter as two new electees,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 22, 2020.

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