Walker stars in losing role

Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2004

BOSTON Larry Walker waited a long time for this chance. Playing in the World Series for the first time in his 16-year major league career, he made it count. It wasn't enough.

Walker homered, doubled twice and singled in his first four at-bats in the St. Louis Cardinals' 11-9 loss to the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night.

''Incredible,'' Cardinals starting pitcher Woody Williams said. ''I'm sure a lot of people don't even realize what he did because it was an exciting game, back and forth. It's unbelievable on this stage.''

The 38-year-old right fielder also made a nice catch in the first inning, running down Manny Ramirez's drive to the warning track before banging into the wall. The Cardinals had the NL Central well in hand when they acquired Walker from the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 6. But he's filled out what already was the National League's best offense, giving them a dangerous No. 2 hitter. Walker went 4-for-5 and has 10 RBIs this postseason, second on the Cardinals to Albert Pujols' 14.

He hasn't allowed the atmosphere to overwhelm him. He said he was most excited about seeing Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, who sang the ''The Star-Spangled Banner,'' standing a few feet away from him before the game.

''When the game started, it was just another baseball game for me,'' Walker said. ''That's all I tried to think of it as.''

Walker's third-inning homer off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, a drive that curled just inside the right-field foul pole, was his fifth of the postseason. It also was just the second in World Series history by a Canadian-born player.

Walker grew up in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, wanting to be a professional hockey player. He switched his emphasis to baseball when his junior coach in Regina, Saskatchewan, told him he'd be the third-string goalie.

''If there was a sheet of ice out there, it would have been the Stanley Cup finals,'' Walker said. ''It was exciting. We're in one of the historic parks and it's tough not to be excited.''

Walker doubled in the first, singled in the fourth to put runners at the corners with two outs and hit an RBI double in the sixth to tie it at 7. He also played a part in a two-run eighth-inning rally that tied it at 9, although he didn't get much wood on the ball.

''I've been working on things with the swing and just felt more comfortable and relaxed,'' Walker said. ''Really, that's about it. I got some pitches to hit and tried to hit strikes and not swing at stuff in the dirt or over my head.''

Ramirez tried an ill-advised catch on a ball to shallow left that he could have caught without sliding, and ended up dropping it for an error that allowed Roger Cedeno to score from second.

Walker missed becoming the first player in major league history to hit for the cycle in the postseason, falling a triple shy. It was reminiscent of Game 1 of the NLCS, when he singled, doubled and tripled in his first four at-bats before striking out in his final at-bat.

He got the home run in his first at-bat of Game 2 of the NLCS, helping the Cardinals win the first two games against the Astros in a series they would win in seven.

Walker's big game helped the Cardinals overcome a shaky start by Woody Williams, who had his shortest outing of the season. Williams, pitching in short sleeves despite a 49-degree temperature at game time, lasted 2 1-3 innings and gave up seven runs on eight hits.

The only other Canadian-born player to homer in the World Series was George Selkirk of the Yankees, who connected in Games 1 and 5 in 1936 against the Giants.

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