Over the years, 60 and counting, I’ve met a few Canadians. A special few are certifiable, 100% proud Canadians.
Only a few -- Charles Bronfman (Montreal, Que, John Diefenbaker (Prince Albert, Sask.), Jean Beliveau (Trois- Rivières, Que.), Walter Gretzky (Brantford, Ont.) and Donald S. Cherry (Kingston, Ont. -- Canada’s first capital and some say it still should be) -- would be in line ahead of Larry Kenneth Robert Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.)
So, they kick off this Olympics shindig the other night in Vancouver and where was Walker?
Hometown hero Steve Nash (Victoria, BC) of the Phoenix Suns, a two-time NBA MVP winner, was there as he should have been.
Ditto for Rick Hansen (Port Alberni, BC), Catriona Le May Doan (Saskatoon, Sask.), Nancy Greene (Ottawa, Ont.) and Wayne Gretzky (Brantford, Ont.) with torches held high waiting for a missing cauldron.
Bobby Orr (Parry Sound, Ont.), Romeo Dellaire (Montreal, Que.), Annnie Murray (Springhill, N.S.), Barbara Ann Scott (Ottawa, Ont.), Julie Payette (Montreal, Que.), Betty Fox (Port Coquitlam, BC), Jacques Villeneuve (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.) and Donald Sutherland (Saint John, N.B.) brought in the flag.
“Donald Sutherland is great, don’t get me wrong, but this is an athletic event celebrating our culture and the people that shape us,” Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) said from Vancouver in discussing the night the world came to his province.
“I would not be in the big leagues if it wasn’t for him. He showed us that it is possible for Canadian kids to get a shot. He’s a Hall of Famer, one of the top 10 Canadian athletes all time.”
Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.) a two-time Olympian, carried the torch through LaSalle, Ont..
On the coast, minor leaguer Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC), the former No. 1 pick now making a second attempt to make the majors as an outfielder, cruised Surrey B.C. Loewen has not competed in the Olympics
Jimmy VanOstrand (Richmond, BC), who was in Bejing, toured Richmond and is headed to Arizona for spring training with the Texas Rangers after hitting .283 with 15 homers and 71 RBIs at Double-A Corpus Christi.
Morneau who helped Canada qualify for Athens at Panama in 2003, carried the torch through Vancouver on Friday.
Where in 45,000 kilometres of torch carrying, including 10,000 within his home province, was hometown hero Walker?
Wasn’t even asked.
CTV’s Lloyd Robertson gushed about carrying the torch on TV and a bunch of others held it high, but no Walker.
Ditto California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former body builder.
Like Nash, Walker was the first Canadian to win a National League MVP award (Morneau later won the AL honour).
Morneau sent Walker a text during the ceremonies.
“I told him two MVP awards are needed to be a part of the ceremonies, I didn’t mean me, I meant him. He should have been there. It was the world stage and actors and singers are carrying the flag, not one of the most influential Canadian athletes of our time?
“I don’t mean to sound like a whiner but it is frustrating to not see a guy that is proud to say he is Canadian and has carried the ‘torch’
for all of us in baseball not get recognition for what he has done.”
Walker is the greatest Canadian position player of all time.
A three-time batting champ, Walker was a seven-time Gold Glove winner.
Walker played for Team Canada in 1984, then coached both World Baseball Classic teams in 2006 and 2009 and coached as Canada won it’s first bronze medal at the World Cup in Italy last fall.
It’s his fault baseball was not an Olympic sport on the way up?
In 10 months Walker’s name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. He all those credentials with nary a mention in The Mitchell Report.
What chance does he have at a Cooperstown invite, if he isn’t even asked to a party celebrating the best Canadian athletes -- and astronauts -- of all time when it is held in his own back yard?
Walker’s Montreal Expos where in San Diego playing the Padres the night the verdict came down on the Rodney King trial. They headed to Los Angeles where the series was cancelled with Walker saying “I just want to get back to my own beautiful country.”
During the exhibition series leading up to the World Baseball Classic Walker scolded the Blue Jays for fielding a team of extra players and minor leaguers against Team Canada and playing their A lineup the next day against Team USA.
When USA manager Davey Johnson failed to shake Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt’s hand at home plate during introductions at the Rogers Centre, Walker was upset at the slight.
“No slight is too slight for Walk when it comes to Canada and the Maple Leaf,” said a teammate.
Ferguson Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) and Tommy Lasorda, Dodgers vice-president, were scheduled to throw out the first pitch. However, WBC officials never firmed up the deal with Jenkins and so Lasorda had enough of that.
Morneau and Walker went to the Air Canada Centre that night and rounded up their own celeb to throw out the first pitch before the game against Italy: Cherry, wearing a tie with a Canadian flag on it.
At the annual Baseball Canada fund raiser in January Walker announced he was no longer seeking a coaching job in baseball. “I’ve decided to concentrate on coaching Canada.”
“It was disappointing Walker did not have a part in the torch run, not even in Maple Ridge, let alone part of lighting the flame,” Morneau continued. “He has done more for Canadian baseball than anyone.”
Hey VANOC -- and whomever else handed out all those torch-carrying assignments -- you have more than a snow problem.
You overlooked one of your own.
One of our own.
One of our best.
Shame on you.
Sure baseball is a now nonexistent summer Olympic sport, but help me with this ... which Olympic Games did Villeneuve and Sutherland medal at?
It’s not too late.
The closing ceremonies are still to come.