Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 1/9/12
Barry Larkins life changed on Monday afternoon. Forever. Hell never be the same and thats in nothing but a good way. Before Monday, before he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Larkin was known as former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin or former star shortstop Barry Larkin. Now, every time his name is mentioned, there are three words in front of his name: Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. It is heady stuff, and it will follow him wherever he goes for the rest of his life. Larkin made it in his second year of eligibility. One wonders why he didnt make it on the first ballot. He is the 22nd shortstop to advance to Cooperstown and his numbers outstrip many shortstops already there, including Luis Aparicio, Lou Boudreau, Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto and Joe Tinker. As manager of the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles and now the Washington Nationals, Davey Johnson was in command of some extremely talented baseball players. And who might be the best player he ever managed? Nobody asked that question before a game last year in Great American Ball Park. But Johnson stood in the doorway of the visiting managers office, arms folded across his chest and volunteered the information: Barry Larkin. Larkin was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1995, the last Reds team to win a division title until 2010, and Johnson was the manager. Larkin played his butt off that year, said Johnson. I had to get on him one day in Chicago. When I took the job, they told me Barry got hurt a lot. But we were in Wrigley Field and it was about 120 degrees, and he was stealing bases. He stole about three. I told him, Barry, last time I checked we were about eight games up, so take it easy. Of course he didnt. He kept at it full-bore. Ive had some great players and people ask me who was my best player and who did I most enjoy managing and it always came down to Larkin with me. Here was a guy who could hit one, two or three and take on any role. He led by example and was the epitome of a managers dream. When Im asked, nobody else ever come to mind but him. From 1970 to 2004, 35 years, the Reds had only two regular shortstops Dave Concepcion (1970-1988) and Barry Larkin (1986-2004). Only two players in Reds history have worn a captains C on their jerseys along with the wishbone-C worn by all the Reds Concepcion and Larkin. Larkin was the hometown hero. He attended Cincinnati Moeller High School, a legendary football factory, where he played baseball and football. He attended the University of Michigan on a baseball scholarship, but iconic Wolverines football coach Bo Schembechler tried to lure him to the football field as a defensive back. Larkin turned him down. Larkin comes from an unbelievable sports family. His brother, Mike Larkin, was a captain on the football team at Notre Dame. His brother, Byron Larkin, played basketball at Xavier University and professionally overseas. Another brother, Stephen Larkin, played briefly for the Reds and for a long period in the minors. The Reds drafted Larkin with their No. 1 pick in 1985, fourth overall. Two years before that, the Reds drafted another shortstop with their first pick, Kurt Stillwell. They tried talking Larkin into switching to second base, but he balked. Stillwell was traded to Kansas City after the 1987 season. Larkin played only 175 games in the minors before he was called up in late 1986. He hit .283 in 41 games (159 at-bats) with the Reds and never saw the minors again. As Johnson noted, Larkin was willing to do anything asked of him in a batting order. He often hit leadoff and was adept at getting on base. He often batted second and was incredibly effective at hitting the ball the other way to move runners along. He often hit third and produced power and RBIs. Whatever it took. Examples abound. In 1988, Larkin struck out only 24 times, least in the majors. In 1990, Larkin hit .353 in the World Series when the Reds astonished the baseball world by sweeping four straight from the vaunted Oakland As and the Bash Brothers of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. In 1991 he became the first shortstop in history to hit five home runs over a two-game period. In 1995, he won the National League MVP by hitting .319 with 51 stolen bases to lead the Reds to a division title. They beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series but then lost to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. It wasnt Larkins fault. He hit .389 in the NLCS. In 1996, batting third, he hit a career-best 33 home runs. On Sept. 7, 1998, Larkin played shortstop, his brother, Stephen, played first base, Bret Boone played second base and his brother, Aaron Boone, played third base the first time two pairs of siblings played in the same major-league game. Larkin finished his 19-year career with a .295 average, 2,340 hits, 441 doubles, 198 home runs, 960 RBI and 379 stolen bases. He was on 12 All-Star teams, won nine Silver Slugger Awards and won three Gold Gloves. And in 1993 he won the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. His uniform number 11 has not yet been retired by the Reds, but it has not been worn since his retirement. Now, for sure, his number retirement should become official.
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