Al 'Rube' WalkerBaseball playerAl "Rube" Walker, a...


December 16, 1992

Al 'Rube' Walker

Baseball player

Al "Rube" Walker, a pitching coach and a one-time backup catcher, died in his native North Carolina Saturday and was buried there Monday. He was 66 and died of lung cancer.

Mr. Walker, a large man with a twinkle in his eye and a heart that reached out to people, was a link to a more glorious time in New York Mets history. He was the pitching coach that Gil Hodges brought with him from Washington when Mr. Hodges took over as the Mets' manager in 1968.

They had been teammates with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the first season of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Mr. Hodges knew the man to the very core. He knew he wanted Mr. Walker to shepherd the promising stable of young pitchers the Mets were developing. So the man they called Rube became pitching coach for Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Tug McGraw and Nolan Ryan.

"Rube knew his pitchers extremely well and that was because he spent time with you off the field as well as on it," Mr. Koosman recalled from his home in Chaska, Minn., Monday night.

"He was your buddy, your father, your pitching coach, your father confessor," Mr. Koosman said.

As a former catcher, Mr. Walker wasn't into pitching mechanics as much as the mental approach. He didn't want his pitchers showing too much emotion, although he couldn't contain Mr. McGraw, because he believed hitters might feed off a reaction that displayed either annoyance or elation.

Mr. Walker also treasured the young arms of his power-pitching staff and was a forerunner in developing a five-man starting rotation when four starters was the usual format.

"He didn't want to be the reason for somebody hurting an arm," Mr. Koosman said. "It was said that he babied our arms. He probably did, and he was probably also the reason we lasted as long as we did. He was a humble man and a good family man who cared about our families.

"We learned a lot from Rube Walker. We didn't give him all the credit he deserved because he had another shining star above him in Gil Hodges."

Mr. Walker is survived by his wife, Millie, three daughters, one brother and six grandchildren.

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