Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/22/12

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Dave Parker turned out to be a visionary. Dave Concepcion didn't.

Parker was playing right field for Cincinnati in 1984 when the Reds visited Detroit for an exhibition game against the Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Barry Larkin, a Cincinnati native, was the star shortstop at University of Michigan and tagged along with Wolverines equipment manager Jon Falk for the short trip from Ann Arbor.

Falk had connections and got Larkin a clubhouse pass. Parker, also a Cincinnatian, grabbed Larkin by the hand and walked him across the clubhouse to the locker to where Concepcion, the Reds' shortstop, was dressing.

"Dave said, 'This is Barry Larkin, he's from Cincinnati and he's going to take your job,'" Larkin recalled during Sunday's National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum induction ceremony.

"I'm saying, 'Oh my goodness, this is not how I expected this to go down.' Davey, who was my idol, looks at my hands and my calluses and said, 'No, his hands are too hard.' I thought it was awfully presumptuous for (Parker) to say that. I felt a little weird but he showed a great deal of confidence in me and I've never forgotten it."

A year later, the Reds used the fourth overall pick in the amateur draft to select Larkin, and a year after that he replaced Concepcion as the Reds' starting shortstop.

Larkin went on to become one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history and was one of two players inducted into the Hall on Sunday along with the late Ron Santo, the former Chicago Cubs' star third baseman and legendary broadcaster.

Larkin, now an analyst for ESPN, spent his entire 19-year career with the Reds from 1986-2004, hitting .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits and 379 stolen bases. He was the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1995 and was selected to 12 All-Star Games while winning nine Silver Slugger awards and three Gold Gloves.

Larkin grew up rooting for the Big Red Machine teams that won World Series titles in 1975 and 1976, idolizing Conception and Hall of Famers Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Johnny Bench. During his induction speech, Larkin talked about how fortunate he was to live out his dream.

"A lot of players in Cincinnati dreamed of playing for the Reds and I appreciated every moment of it," he said.

The gist of Larkin's 31-minute speech centered around those who mentored him, including all-time hits leader Pete Rose, who was his first major-league manager. Larkin also talked about how helpful Concepcion, Parker and other teammates, such as Eric Davis and Buddy Bell, were in the early stages of his career.

Larkin told an interesting story from early in his career about Bell pulling him aside early one day before a game at Dodger Stadium. Bell told Larkin to get down on all fours to smell the grass, then told him to roll over and look up at the sky.

"I felt like an ant because the stadium looked so big," Larkin said. "What it showed me is that one person is really very small in the grand scale of the game. It's something I took to heart."

Santo was inducted posthumously as he died Dec. 2, 2010 at age 70.

Santo spent 13 of his 14 seasons with the Cubs from 1960-1973, then played one final season across town with the White Sox. He hit 342 homers, played in nine All-Star Games and won five Gold Gloves.

Santo played despite being a diabetic for most of his career, hiding the condition from the Cubs and his teammates most of that time for fear he might be forced to retire. His widow, Vicki, gave an inspirational speech about how her husband dealt with his illness and raised $65 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

"Ron felt raising money for JDRF was the reason for him being here, that and broadcasting Cubs' games and being their biggest fan," Vicki Santo said. "When the odds were stacked against him late in his life, that is what drove him and kept him going."

It was bittersweet that Santo was unable to enjoy the induction honor in person, but Vicki Santo said it did not detract from the day.

"I know he'd be proud to be going into the Hall of Fame if he was here, and I know he's looking down on us with a big smile," she said.

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