Former Minnesota Twins player Danny Walton passed away on August 9, 2017 at the age of 70. Daniel James Walton was born in Los Angeles, California on July 14, 1947 and passed away on August 9, 2017 in Morgan, Utah.
Walton’s pro baseball career started in 1965 when he was drafted in the 10th round by the Houston Astros. A much heralded minor league slugger, he put up huge numbers in Triple-A and appeared headed for major league glory. Many fans compared him to Mickey Mantle, with the full expectation that he would succeed The Mick as the game’s next great slugger. In fact, Walton’s nickname was “Mickey.” This obviously never came to pass.
Walton debuted with the Astros at the age of 20 on April 20, 1968 but he only got 2 plate appearances with Houston before they traded him to the Seattle Pilots in August 1969. Walton was so dominant in the American Association in 1969 that The Sporting News voted Walton its Minor League Player of the Year. The following year, 1970, the Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers and Walton quickly became a fan favorite. His growing strikeout rate and a knee injury finally forced the Brewers hand and they traded Walton to the New York Yankees in June of 1971. Receiving little playing time in New York they then traded Walton to the Minnesota Twins in October 1972 for catcher Rick Dempsey.
Walton’s time in the Minnesota organization lasted 3 years but he only appeared in a Twins uniform in 37 games in 1973 and 42 games in 1975 and spending the rest of his time in AAA. Playing for the Twins AAA Tacoma Twins in 1974 Walton tried switch-hitting smashed 35 home runs, knocked in 109 runs while hitting a respectable .263. Danny Walton’s strikeouts continued to plague him and he hit just .176 with 5 home runs for the Twins in a total of 79 games and 179 PA’s in 1973-1975. In December 1975 the Twins traded Walton to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2B Bobby Randall.
After playing in 18 games for LA he was traded back to his first team the Houston Astros where he again played briefly before being released in March of 1978. Walton then went to Japan to play for the Yokohama Taiyo Whales in the Japan Central league where he appeared in 75 games before leaving there and signing with the Seattle Mariners in March of 1979 but he never played in a big league game for them. In March of 1980 he was released by the Mariners but was signed by the Texas Rangers where he appeared in the final 10 games of his big league career. The Rangers traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in December of 1980. Walton spent the 1980 season in AAA before calling it a career.
Over a professional career that lasted from 1965 to 1980, Walton played for six major league teams and 13 minor league franchises.Outside of his one decent season in Milwaukee, he never gained traction in the major leagues. But he didn’t give up, kept going back to the minor leagues, and became one of the greatest Triple-A sluggers of the expansion era. In parts or all of 10 Triple-A seasons, he hit 184 home runs and slugged .507.
To this day, Walton remains a minor league legend. While not many major league fans saw Walton play, many fans of my age and older have heard the stories of his prodigious power and his tape-measure home runs. There is a certain mystique to the name Danny Walton. All things considered, that’s not a bad legacy to have.
After leaving baseball, Walton worked as a welder. He was the happiest man with a great love for life and people. He was loud, funny and very affectionate. He had so many friends that loved to be in his company.
In 1983, Danny married Judy in Elko, Nevada. It was love at first sight for them and they were able to spend 34 wonderful years together.
Danny is survived by his wife, Judy, sisters, Charlene (Steve) Alzugaray, Marian (Larry) Kane, brother-in-law, Mick (Christine) Jungles, Brard (Dixie) Bailey, Lyle (Lisa) Bailey, and his children, Cody (Vicki) Walton, Amy Walton, Shelly Walton, Jason Polaro, Daniel Zahl, Bryan (Cassie) Roberts, and Brandon (Tonya) Robertson and nine grandchildren.. He was preceded in death by his parents and one sister, Catherine May Walton and brother-in-law, Vaughn “Duck” Bailey.
The Hardball Time did a great story on Danny Walton that you can read here.
Rest in Peace Danny Walton and thank you for the wonderful memories.