Barry Larkin combined offense and defense like few other shortstops
But check the numbers: 12 All-Star Game selections in 19 seasons for Barry Larkin. It doesn't get much better than that for any shortstop.
Larkin is one of 33 players on the 2010 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for the Class of 2011 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. In his first year on the ballot in 2010, Larkin received 51.6 percent of the vote.
BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 5. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 24 in Cooperstown.
Born April 28, 1964, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Larkin was an honor student at Cincinnati's Moeller High School and was taken in the second round of the 1982 draft by his hometown Reds. But Larkin decided to accept a baseball scholarship to the University of Michigan, and later earned a spot on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Baseball Team.
A year later, in the 1985 draft, Larkin was taken by the Reds with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
Larkin finished seventh in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1985 despite playing just 41 games. The next season, he won the Reds' starting shortstop job, and by 1988 Larkin was a first-time All-Star with a .296 average, 91 runs scored, 32 doubles and 40 stolen bases.
In 1990, Larkin finished seventh in the NL MVP voting after hitting .301 with 30 steals and 67 RBIs. The Reds went wire-to-wire in winning the NL West that year, then dispatched the Pirates and the A's in the postseason to win the World Series.
In the four-game sweep over Oakland in the Fall Classic, Larkin hit .353 and scored three runs.
Larkin began to develop power in 1991 when he hit 20 homers, and his all-around play continued to improve. He won the first of three consecutive Gold Glove awards in 1994, was named the NL MVP in 1995 after hitting .319 en route to the Reds' NL Central title and trip to the NLCS and became the first shortstop – and just the second Reds player – to post a 30-homer/30-steal season in 1996.
"I'm not a home run hitter," said Larkin, who hit five home runs in two consecutive days in 1991 – another first for a shortstop. "I'm a line drive hitter. (In 1996), I hit (33) line drives that went over the fence."
Larkin was also a role model off the field, winning the Roberto Clemente Award in 1993. The Clemente Award is given annually to a player who demonstrates the values Roberto Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others.
Larkin retired after the 2004 season – he was named an All-Star in his final year in the big leagues – with a .295 career average, 2,340 hits, 1,329 runs scored and 379 stolen bases. Larkin scored at least 80 runs in a season seven times, hit 30-plus doubles in six seasons and stole 30-or-more bases five times. He won his three Gold Gloves at shortstop en route to a career fielding percentage of .975, and won nine Silver Slugger awards.
He played every one of his 19 big league seasons with the Reds.
"I had some opportunities with other teams to play," Larkin said at the time of his retirement. "But I didn't feel that I could make the commitment as a player with another team."
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum