The Colorado Rockies may have lacked success in their early years as a franchise, but they didn’t lack excitement. After entering the league in 1993, the club was soon to put together a powerful foursome that would create a lot of buzz.
Andres Galarraga, Dante Bichette, Larry Walker and Vinny Castilla took full advantage of Colorado’s high altitude once they arrived, crushing balls up and over the wall at Coors Field. Their success at the home ballpark was so prominent that they were nicknamed the Blake Street Bombers; labeled after the street the park lays at. Castilla and Bichette first became stars in the mile high city, but Walker and Galarraga first made a name for themselves in Montreal, Quebec.
“The Big Cat,” Andres Galarraga was originally teammates with Walker in Larry’s rookie season of 1989. By then, Galarraga was already an established big leaguer. The Venezuela-born first-baseman joined the Montreal organization in 1979 as an amateur free agent. That year, Tony Perez was manning first base for the big club, a Galarraga replica look-wise and performance-wise. It took six seasons for the Expos to call Galarraga up, but once he cracked the big league lineup, it was tough to remove him.
Galarraga manned first base for six and a half years under the Olympic Stadium roof, performing handsomely both at the dish and at the bag. His success on both sides of the ball led him to win two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger award while with the Expos.
His time in Montreal, unfortunately, did end on a sour note as he battled injuries to start the 1991 season and wasn’t the same hitter once he returned. The team struggled mightily that year, finishing 71-90 under two separate managers. Galarraga was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in that year’s offseason before signing with the Rockies 12 months later. In Colorado, he more than regained his old form.
The three organizations that Galarraga began his career with are the same three teams Walker eventually played for. But like “The Big Cat,” Walker started his career off in his home country North of the Border.
After signing with the Expos out of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League, Walker took plenty of time to work his way up through the system. But when your signing straight out of high school, that is to be expected. Once he made his way to the big leagues, he, much like Galarraga, didn’t look back.
Larry Walker, a five-tool player, showcased all of his assets while playing in Canada. His hit tool was clear from day one and confirmed six years later as Walker hit .281 in 2366 at- bats. His ability to run was also demonstrated as he stole at least 14 bags in each of his five full seasons. The elite power, of course, was later to come, but “Booger” did hit 99 bombs while with the Expos. And maybe his greatest tools were his defensive abilities as he was a two-time Gold Glove award winner with Montreal. Other than once forgetting how many outs there were, Walker was outstanding in right field.
When he left for Colorado just before the start of the 1995 season, he was heading straight into his prime. His numbers were flat-out video game like during those years. A .334/.426/.618 line with 258 homers in the ten seasons are the reasons why he has a Hall of Fame case. Not to mention winning an MVP in 1997. As previously noted, the Canadian star finished out with the Cardinals. The trade gave him two chances to try and acquire a World Series ring, but he just barely fell short two times in two years.
Both Galarraga and Walker finished out with similar counting statistics. Walker totaled up for 383 homers along with 1311 career runs batted in while Galarraga fell just one home run short of 400 with a little over 100 more career RBI’s. In most other categories, Walker expectedly had the advantage.
Bichette and Castilla both finished out with impressive careers, especially in the run-producing category. But I think it is fair to say the original Montreal Expo dual made for the greater Blake Street Bombers.
(Photos from Getty Images and The Denver Post)