By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
The start of the 2020 World Series on Tuesday night brought much attention and fanfare to the Southern California region in general, and the Santa Clarita Valley in particular, with the hometown Los Angeles Dodgers facing off against the Tampa Bay Rays and their young hurler Tyler Glasnow, who attended nearby Hart High School in Newhall.
But Game 1 of the 2020 Fall Classic also marked a significant anniversary in the career of former 14-year MLB veteran pitcher, and one time College of the Canyons Cougar pitcher, Bob Walk.
Walk is perhaps most famous for starting, and winning, Game 1 of the 1980 World Series as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. In doing so he became just the third rookie pitcher in MLB history to start Game 1 of the World Series.
Walk's place in World Series history came just four years after he was a star pitcher on the Mike Gillespie-led Cougars teams of 1975 (conference champions) and 1976.
Forty years later, Walk's name would be mentioned at the World Series once again with FOX play-by-play man Joe Buck referring to both Walk and Glasnow being part of the long lineage of 13 former Hart High School baseball stars that went on to play in the major leagues.
After being selected in the third round of the 1976 amateur draft, Walk worked his way through the minor leagues and served as the Phillies' No. 5 starter for most of the 1980 season. He pitched to an 11-7 record across 27 starts, before being handed the ball on the biggest stage of all later that October.
The young right-hander showed no fear, however, striking out the first batter he faced (Kansas City Royals leadoff man Willie Wilson), and taking the game into the eighth inning. Walk would later turn things over to famed Philadelphia reliever Tug McGraw for the final six outs in what was a thrilling 7-6 victory for the Phillies.
Along the way, Walk fanned three Kansas City batters — including future MLB Hall of Famer George Brett — and issued three walks, while allowing six runs across seven innings. It was a two-run home run off that bat of KC first baseman Willie Aikens that eventually chased Walk in the top of the eighth inning.
Walk's World Series win came in front of a paid attendance of 65,791 fans at Veteran Stadium and millions more watching at home — including quite a few interested viewers in the neighborhoods surrounding both COC and Hart High.
Philadelphia went on to win Game 2 of the series with Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton on the mound and eventually defeated the Royals in six games to claim the franchise's first World Series championship, ending a 77-year title drought in the process.
In the days and weeks that followed the then 23-year-old Walk was honored with a hero's welcome and celebratory parade back home in Newhall.
According to reports from The Signal Newspaper, the festivities began at Hart High School, continued down Newhall Ave. and concluded at nearby William S. Hart Park. The procession included a Marine Corps color guard, the Hart High School marching band and "a contingent of College of the Canyons cheerleaders." Photo coverage of the event also shows Walk catching up with his former head coaches in Hart High's Bud Murray and COC's Mike Gillespie. Following the parade, a celebratory luncheon was held at Newhall Bowl on Lyons Ave.
Walk pitched a total of 14 MLB seasons in his career, posting a 105-81 record with a 4.03 ERA with 848 career strikeouts, but never made it to another World Series.
After earning a championship ring with the Phillies, Walk spent three seasons with the Atlanta Braves (1981-83) and 10 more with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1984-1993).
During his time with the Pirates, Walk earned an All-Star designation in 1988 and later helped the Pirates to three straight National League East division titles (1990, 1991, 1992) under manager Jim Leyland. Leyland would call upon Walk to start Game 5 of the 1992 National League Championship Series vs. Atlanta. Trailing in the series by a 3-1 deficit, Walk responded by pitching a three-hit complete game to defeat the Braves 7-1 and extend the series.
Since his playing career ended, Walk has continued to work in baseball as an announcer for both the Pittsburgh Pirates broadcast teams and the MLB on FOX.
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