Barry Larkin started off what is hopefully a special 2012 for the Cincinnati Reds organization by being elected to the Hall of Fame with 86% of the total vote.
Joe Posnanski sums it up really well–although Larkin doesn’t have any number that particularly jumps off the page–you just feel that Larkin is a Hall of Famer if you spent years watching him be masterful at shortstop in Cincinnati. If there’s one thing I’ve experienced as a fan of the game of baseball, it’s Barry Larkin.
The first baseball game I ever remember watching on television was in 1988 or 1989. It was a spring training game between the Reds or the Astros. I had a few Topps cards of Barry Larkin and a Kenner Starting Lineup figure that my dad bought me. All I knew was that I liked baseball, I liked the color red, and I had a thing for this Larkin guy. There was something about him that really perked my interest from the beginning. When he flew out deep to the warning track early in the exhibition; I started yelling and crying. My dad tried to tell me that he nearly homered and I should relax. I could not. He turned off the game.
From there I remember watching a lot of the 1990 World Series in which it seemed that Larkin was always on base. As a youngster during that series, the stat that mattered to me most was runs scored. To me, runs scored was the be all end all. After all; that was how you won in baseball, by crossing home plate.
It seemed like every time their spot in the batting order came up, Billy Hatcher and Barry Larkin got on base. And they were scoring runs! My God could Larkin score runs with the best of them! In actuality, he only crossed home plate three times in that series, but his on base was .421. Give me some credit, I was seven years old.
From there, Barry Larkin and I grew up together. Through the years and all of my trips to the ballpark to see stars from other cities come into town, the one constant that outlasted management, front office executives, coaches, and every other Reds player was Barry Larkin.
From the time I was four years old until I was in college, Barry Larkin was making back-handed plays in the hole while wearing #11, and firing it across the diamond with a rocket arm to nip the runner. How about that 1991 season where he hit 5 home runs in two games? I remember it.
Through my time as a baseball fan and visiting the park, no player ever accumulated more base hits. I’m sure of it. While I’ll never be able to track down the exact number, Barry Larkin will probably always hold that dubious distinction.
Should be be a Hall of Famer? If you had the chance to watch him play as much as I did, you know he was a splendid player who was valuable to his team beyond numbers due to the intangibles he brought. When the team’s lead-off hitter went down, Lark would climb into that spot. When you needed a two-hole that would move a runner over four times in a game on the road, Lark was that player. Three hole hitter by trade and skill set? Absoluely. Did he have the pop to hit clean-up or fifth? A lot of times in the Reds lineup he was the offensive player that teams feared the most.
Barry Larkin was just a splendid player whose career stretched across the performance enhancing drugs/steroid era and he earned his numbers in a clean fashion and somehow managed to play his entire 19-year career in the same big league city. It probably helped Larkin’s case that he spent that entire career in a baseball town that produced him from his youth.
Thanks for the memories, Lark. I’m excited for you to join the ranks of baseball’s greatest to ever hit the diamond.