I moved to Chicago from South Florida in the late summer of 1989. Florida did not have a professional baseball team at the time, I was able to pick my own ‘home’ team to cheer for since my home state didn’t have one. Since the local cable company offered WGN and WTBS, I found myself being an Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs fan.
After moving to Chicago I got swept up in the Cub’s pennant winning season and watching Jerome Walton play was a big reason why.
Jerome Walton was a text-book leadoff hitter – A player that was able to hit for average, get on base consistently, and steal bases. During Walton’s rookie year, he hit .293 and had 24 stolen bases. In addition to that, he also set the major league record for consecutive games with a hit by a rookie with 30 games. Walton became a fan favorite and wound up winning the Rookie of the Year award in ’89. The kid with the ‘unusual batting stance’ looked like he was headed for stardom and was going to help make the Cubs winners.
Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened. Walton’s best year was his rookie season and his star quickly faded as he became more and more inconsistent at the plate. In less than 3 seasons with the Cubs, Walton lost his starting job and was not granted a contract extension. Walton then went on to play for 5 different teams in 6 seasons and never was able to get consistent playing time. He still showed that he had better than average offensive skills, but he was never able to earn a full-time job. Jerome Walton retired from baseball after the 1998 season.