In what was no surprise to many a Reds fan, yesterday it was announced that the BBWAA voted Barry Larkin into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In a well-deserved honor, the 86% vote Larkin accrued represented a major increase (24%) from last year’s voting.
And that got me wondering about some of the achievements Larkin had attained. He is the charter member of the 30-30 club among shortstops. He was honored as the National League MVP in 1995. He amassed 9 Silver Sluggers and 3 Gold Gloves. He won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1993 and the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1994. Lark was also selected to 12 All-Star Games. Not a bad career at all.
But there are some things about Barry Larkin, and games in which he participated in, that are also memorable, or not so much. Thanks to Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times for reminding us of some of these games.
The list is long, but it is a read that no Larkin fan should pass. Not all are good (no career is filled with all good times), but those that aren’t can be on the entertaining or informative side. Here’s a couple that strike a chord within me….
Oct. 12, 1990: NLCS Game Six: With the Reds up three games to two, Cincinnati leadoff hitter Larkin begins the first with a single, steals second and later scores for an early 1-0 lead. It proves to be the difference, as the Reds win, 2-1, to clinch the pennant. Larkin will go to the World Series to face the heavily favored Oakland A’s.
This Larkin “highlight” means the most to me as I was in attendance for this game. I remember my co-workers teasing me that the Reds were going to win the fifth game in Pittsburgh; therefore, nullifying my chances of seeing a National League clinching win. It wasn’t so much the game itself that stands out to me. It’s what occurred after the game that does.
I can still picture it. After the final out, Riverfront Stadium (as it will always be known to me) was in an absolute frenzy. Amid the clubhouse celebration (which was being shown on the Jumbotron), some of the Reds player took the time to re-emerge and show their appreciation to the fans of Cincinnati. The first player I saw…Larkin. He was jubilant and pointing to the crowd. It’s a scene I have replayed in my mind on many occasions.
July 13, 1993: It takes a heckuva player to displace a perennial All-Star and first-ballot Hall of Famer from the starting lineup of the All-Star game, and Larkin has done just that. For the last ten straight years, baseball fans had voted Ozzie Smith to start for the All-Star game for the NL, but that streak ends tonight. As the league’s first-string shortstop, Larkin goes 0-for-2 with an RBI sacrifice fly before leaving. (As it happens, Smith’s run as NL shortstop is bookended by Reds. Cincinnati’s Dave Concepcion started the game before Smith’s reign began).
This is significant due in part to who Larkin “replaced” as the NL starter at short. It was no ordinary shortstop. It was Ozzie Smith. If you look at the NL team from that year, only two players from that squad are currently enshrined: Ryne Sandberg and Tony Gwynn. The AL squad boasts of five: Roberto Alomar, Cal Ripken, Jr., Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor and Kirby Puckett. There could be more eventually amke it to Cooperstown: John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Ivan Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, and another Cincinnati native, Ken Griffey, Jr. Two names that will being about conversation will be that of Mike Piazza and Barry Bonds…but that is for another day.
There are many other great moments and sheer oddities that Jaffe brings to light. A highly recommended read for everyone.