Larkin... a cut above
By George Starks
Barry Larkin grew up in Cincinnati and like many of us, dreamed of
playing for his hometown team. The veteran of 19 seasons -- all with
his hometown Cincinnati Reds -- recently became the 112th player and
11th shortstop elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
One of the greatest quotes I ever heard came from the mouth of none
other than that of Ric Flair when he said, “every day you have to walk
that aisle. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
As a player, Barry Larkin did that. Every day, he went out on the field
of battle, played the game, beat the best and proved himself over and
over again, time after time.
Over his career, Larkin compiled a lifetime batting average of .295
with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits, a .371 on-base percentage and
379 stolen bases.
Larkin also was a 12-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner and
a nine-time Silver Slugger winner at shortstop, a member of the 1990
World Series championship team and the 1995 National League Most
Valuable Player. In 1996, Larkin became the first shortstop in Major
League history to be a 30-30 player when he had 33 homers and 36 steals
during that season.
If we put his career into perspective it goes like this. Only Barry
Bonds, Mike Piazza and A-Rod had more Silver Slugger Awards than
Larkin. Only Ozzie Smith had more Gold Gloves at shortstop than Larkin.
Only Cal Ripkin Jr. and Smith made more appearances in the All-Star
game at shortstop than Larkin.
Some pretty good company in my opinion. What more can one say about the
guy. His numbers speak for themselves.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brenneman once compared Larkin to the
legendary Pete Rose, saying Larkin approached the game much like Rose
Wow, what a comparison.
I really don’t know if I would go that far as to compare any player to
Rose. I think that is going a bit too far. That would be like someone
comparing me to the great Reds beat writer, Hal McCoy, a Hall of Fame
writer. That would be high praise but there is no comparison.
On a warm, muggy day in July, in Cooperstown, New York, Larkin will
step into immortality. He will be in there with the best of the best.
Names like Ruth, Bench and Morgan and now Larkin will be there.
Larkin was a leader on and off the field and was one of the last of a
dying breed. One man who played 19 seasons with the same team. He never
jumped ship. He never went the route of free agency. He was loyal to
his hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds.
Not even Rose can say that.
Larkin would often take less money at contract time for the sake of the
team. Larkin was a team player.
How many people do you know that you can say that about?