Larry Walker (TRADING CARD DB)

May 21, 1996: Larry Walker collects 13 total bases, drives in six runs at Coors Field

This article was written by Mike Huber

Larry Walker (TRADING CARD DB)There are some players, in some seasons, who definitely experience the home-field advantage. In 1996 Larry Walker was one of those players. He played 43 games at home (Coors Field) and 40 games on the road.1 He batted .393 with a 1.248 OPS in Denver — but only .142 (.523 OPS) away from his home field.

In mid-May, Walker had been batting .242 with only 24 runs batted in.2 On May 17 the Rockies began a nine-game homestand, and Walker’s offensive output exploded. He went 6-for-12 in three games against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates came to town on May 20 for a three-game series. The middle game was to be played on a Tuesday evening. Colorado drew 48,037 for the game, the Rockies’ 72nd consecutive sellout, which was a major-league record.3 The Pirates had only won two of their last 11 games (and only three of their previous 14), and one of those wins needed extra innings. Postseason participants via the National League wild card a year earlier, the Rockies were no-hit by Al Leiter of the Marlins on May 11, and lost the next day, too, but then started winning. They entered this second game of the series riding a five-game win streak.

Pittsburgh named Matt Ruebel as its starter. Ruebel, a 26-year-old lefty, was making his major-league debut. He started in his first six appearances for the Pirates but by the end of July was a member of the bullpen. Colorado countered with Mike Farmer, also a rookie. The left-hander was making his fourth career appearance and third start. He had not yet received a decision.

Pittsburgh’s Carlos Garcia began the game by singling into center field. Home runs by Jeff King (his 11th, a two-run blast) and Jay Bell (his fifth, a solo shot) staked Ruebel to a three-run lead before he even made his first pitch in the majors.

Unfortunately for Ruebel, the Rockies matched those blows in the bottom of the first. With one out, Ellis Burks singled to center. Ruebel notched his first big-league strikeout, victimizing Dante Bichette, before Walker launched a 1-and-1 pitch into the right-center-field stands for his 10th homer of the season. Three pitches later, Andres Galarraga lofted a deep fly over the fence in center, tying the score with his 11th round-tripper.

The Rockies struck again in the second. Walt Weiss drew a one-out walk and Farmer grounded a single through the hole at short. Eric Young Sr. sent a grounder in the same place as Farmer for a single, and Weiss scored the go-ahead run for a 4-3 lead.

Pittsburgh responded in the top of the third. Farmer allowed a leadoff walk to Al Martin, who then stole second base. Two outs later, Bell singled into short left field, and the score was once again tied, as Martin crossed home plate. The Rockies loaded the bases in their half of the third, but Ruebel worked his way out of the inning. Both pitchers then settled down; Farmer held the Pirates scoreless in the fourth and fifth, and Ruebel pitched a clean fourth.

In the bottom of the fifth, Walker, who had lined out to start the bottom of the third, lined a pitch to center and hustled into second base with a double. Galarraga drove the first pitch from Ruebel into center for an RBI single, and the Rockies took back the lead, 5-4. (Had Walker settled for a single, he would not have scored from first base.4) Vinny Castilla kept Colorado going by grounding a single into left field, but Jayhawk Owens lined the ball to right fielder Orlando Merced, who made the catch and fired the ball to second base, catching Galarraga off the bag for a double play. Weiss reached on an infield single. Farmer dribbled a grounder up the third base line for another infield hit, and the bases were loaded again. Pirates manager Jim Leyland was forced to bring in Jason Christiansen, another left-handed pitcher, to relieve Ruebel, who had already thrown 90 pitches. Christiansen retired Young to end the inning, preventing any more damage. Ruebel had allowed five hits (a double and four singles) in the fifth inning, but the Rockies came away with only one run.

Perhaps inspired by this defensive hold, Pittsburgh’s offense surged again. Merced walked to start the sixth. Bell singled, and that was all for Farmer. Darren Holmes entered in relief. Holmes induced a groundout by Charlie Hayes, but both runners advanced into scoring position. Midre Cummings then hit a weak grounder up the first-base line. Holmes pounced on it but threw the ball away, allowing both Merced and Bell to score and Cummings to reach third base. Jason Kendall then laid down a sacrifice bunt to the third baseman, and Cummings scored on the squeeze play. The Pirates now held a two-run lead, 7-5.

Pittsburgh’s bullpen could not hold the advantage. None of their starters in the last three games had finished five innings, and the bullpen was tired. After the game, Leyland told reporters, “We had to go with [Christiansen] because three right-handers couldn’t pitch. Dan Miceli, Marc Wilkins and Jon Lieber all needed a game off.”5

Burks doubled leading off the bottom of the sixth. Bichette singled, putting runners at the corners. Walker drilled Christiansen’s first offering to the top of the center-field wall for a triple, which fueled a four-run inning. Galarraga’s sacrifice fly plated Walker. Christiansen retired Castilla, but Owens reached on a walk. Weiss stroked a double to center. Castilla’s run made it 9-7 in favor of Colorado, and the Rockies never trailed again.

An inning later, Young singled off Christiansen. He moved to second on a wild pitch (before teammate Burks struck out) and continued to third on a fly ball by Bichette.

Walker settled into the batter’s box with this, his fifth and last at-bat of the game, needing a single to hit for the cycle. He knew it, too. There had not yet been any player in Rockies history who had hit for the cycle.6 After the game, he admitted, “I was thinking about the cycle on that last at-bat and I told (home plate umpire) Tom Hallion, ‘I should lay a bunt down here.’ I told first-base ump Jerry Crawford if it was close, he should call me safe and I could get the cycle thing over with.”7 The cycle was not meant to be. Instead, Walker launched his second home run of the game, well beyond the wall in deep right. Galarraga grounded out to end the inning, but Christiansen had allowed six runs in his brief appearance. Despite Pittsburgh’s bullpen being overworked, Christiansen did not return to the mound in the eighth inning.

Colorado scored its final run in the bottom of the eighth, when Curt Leskanic, now doing the pitching for the Rockies, doubled home Castillo. The ninth inning started with the Rockies holding a five-run lead, 12-7. Leskanic, who had entered the game in the eighth and had little difficulty retiring the side, now couldn’t get an out in the ninth. Singles by Garcia and Martin were followed by a two-run double by King. Merced was retired on a groundout, but it was productive, moving King to third base. Bell walked and Hayes launched a fly ball to deep right-center for a double. King scored easily but Bell stopped at third base. That was all for Leskanic. Bruce Ruffin entered in relief and ended the game with two infield groundouts. Colorado won, 12-10, its sixth straight victory and eighth in a row at Coors Field. The Pirates’ woes continued, as they had now lost 12 of their last 15 games.

All nine starting players for Colorado hit safely, combining for 19 hits (Leskanic’s double made it an even 20 for the game). Walker’s six runs batted in set a career-best record for RBIs in a game.8

For the homestand, Walker hit safely in eight of the nine games, collecting 17 hits (10 were for extra bases), 12 runs scored, and 14 runs batted in. There’s no place like home. Walker told reporters, “I’m hitting the ball well at home, but I need to carry that with me on the road.”9



In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted,,, and



1 Walker missed two months of the season (60 games), from June 10 through August 14, due to injury. He broke his collarbone running into the outfield wall in a game against the Atlanta Braves at Coors Field.

2 As of May 14, 1996 (through 33 games).

3 The Rockies reached a million fans at Coors Field in their first 21 games. This was the fourth consecutive season that Colorado reached that plateau faster than any other team.

4 See May 21, 1996, highlights (from ESPN), Accessed May 2021. The Pirates-Rockies highlights are found from 7:09 to 8:32 in the video.

5 Paul Meyer, “Rockies Outslug Pirates, 12-10,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 22, 1996: 39.

6 Dante Bichette became the first Colorado Rockies player to hit for the cycle when he accomplished the rare feat on June 10, 1998, against the Texas Rangers.

7 Associated Press, “Rockies Down Pirates for 6th Straight Win,” Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, Colorado), May 22, 1996: 25.

8 Three years later, on April 28, 1999, Walker knocked in eight runs against the St. Louis Cardinals. He blasted three home runs in a 4-for-5 performance.

9 “Rockies Down Pirates for 6th Straight Win.”

Additional Stats

Colorado Rockies 12
Pittsburgh Pirates 10

Coors Field
Denver, CO


Box Score + PBP:

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1990s ·