ST. LOUIS -- Larry Walker would have preferred to go out
But after taking a called third strike in the ninth inning of
the Houston Astros' NL Championship Series-clinching 5-1 win over
St. Louis on Wednesday night, Walker sounded like he was through.
"I couldn't even breathe," Walker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "All these emotions were going every direction. I knew it was it. I'm not coming back."
Walker had frequently suggested this season would be his last. He struggled through a season in which he received cortisone shots on four
different occasions to relieve the pain of a herniated disc in his
neck, but still hit .289 with 15 homers in 100 games.
But by the playoffs, Walker was far from the five-time All-Star
who led the NL in hitting three times. He was 3-for-19 in the NLCS
and 3-for-28 in the postseason.
"That was it, probably," Walker said. "Unfortunately, we came
up a little short."
Manager Tony La Russa praised Walker for his overall talent. He
hit .313 with 383 homers in 17 seasons with Montreal, Colorado and
St. Louis, stole 230 bases and won seven Gold Gloves.
"Most people know the kind of player that he has been his whole
-- I mean, just a gifted all-around everything," La Russa
said. "In fact, I think he probably would be in the top three of
just about every category -- baserunning, defense, handling the bat.
"What we came to learn about him: He's really an outstanding
Walker said he'll miss the competition.
"Putting on a uniform and going out there and challenging nine
other guys to a baseball game was always a blast," he said. "It's
a great life."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.