Former major league reliever Tom Walker passed away today, per an announcement from the Pirates. He was 74.
“The Pirates are deeply saddened by the passing of Tom Walker,” the organization said in a statement. “Tom was a part of the Pirates local alumni group and was always looking to make an impact on others in the Pittsburgh community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Walker family, including his wife Carolyn, daughter Carrie, and sons Matt, Sean and Neil, in addition to his son-in-law Don Kelly and the Kelly family.”
Walker, a Tampa native, never played in a regular season game for the Pirates. He was selected by the Orioles with the ninth overall pick in the 1968 draft. He topped out at Double-A in the Baltimore system before being selected by the Expos in the 1972 Rule 5 draft. Walker pitched three years in Montreal, keeping a sub-4.00 ERA in each season. He threw 74 2/3 innings as a rookie and topped 90 frames in each of the following two years.
After the 1974 campaign, the Expos traded him alongside catcher Terry Humphrey to the Tigers for starter Woodie Fryman. Walker logged a career-high 115 1/3 innings over 36 appearances (including nine starts) in Detroit. One year later, the Tigers sold his contract to the Cardinals. Walker pitched a season in St. Louis, then returned to Montreal as a free agent. He made 11 appearances as an Expo and closed his MLB career with one game for the Angels in 1977 after California claimed him on waivers. Walker signed with the Pirates for 1978 but didn’t make the MLB roster. He retired after eight games for Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate.
While Walker didn’t take the mound in Pittsburgh, he was a longtime resident of the city and had strong family connections to the organization. Walker’s son Neil Walker played with the Bucs from 2009-15, spending the bulk of that time as Pittsburgh’s starting second baseman. Kelly has spent the past four seasons as Derek Shelton’s bench coach.