Larkin’s loyalty made him the Cincinnati kid

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

After 19 stellar seasons in the big leagues, Barry Larkin had the chance to continue his career – had he been willing to play for any team but the Cincinnati Reds.

But Larkin’s loyalty left only one possible course of action.

On Feb. 13, 2005, Larkin officially retired after spending each one of his MLB seasons with Cincinnati. Larkin, who grew up in the Queen City, announced that day he was taking a job as a special assistant to Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden.

“I had some other opportunities with other teams to play,” Larkin told the Associated Press. “But I didn’t feel that I could make the commitment as a player with another team.”

Larkin starred at Cincinnati’s Moeller High School before heading to the University of Michigan, where he initially focused on football. But when legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler redshirted Larkin was a freshman, the multi-sport star turned his attention to baseball.

The Reds had selected Larkin in the second round of the 1982 MLB Draft out of high school, but Larkin chose to head to Michigan.

Three years later, the Reds again turned to Larkin – this time with the fourth overall pick in the 1985 MLB Draft.

After just 175 games in the minors, Larkin made his big league debut on Aug. 13, 1986. By 1987, Larkin was the Reds starting shortstop.

He earned the first of 12 All-Star Game selections in 1988 and by 1990 was a key cog of the Reds team that led from wire-to-wire, winning the 1990 World Series title.

Adding power to his already outstanding resume in 1991, Larkin hit 20 homers that year – including five in a two-game stretch June 27-28, becoming the 16th player in big league history to reach that mark.

“I’ve changed nothing,” Larkin said of his power barrage. “I’m just trying to hit the ball hard consistently.”

In 1995, Larkin topped the 50-steal mark for the first time in his career, hitting .319 and earning National League Most Valuable Player honors. A year later, Larkin hit a career high 33 home runs while stealing 36 bases – becoming the first 30/30 shortstop in big league history.

Injuries slowed Larkin in the final years of his career, but he remained at shortstop: Playing all but three games (all coming in his rookie year of 1986) of his 2,088 appearances in the field at short for his career.

When he retired, Larkin had totaled 2,340 hits, 198 home runs and 379 steals to go with a .295 batting average and a .371 on-base percentage. He earned nine Silver Slugger Awards and three Gold Glove Awards.

“I’ve had some great players,” said Davey Johnson, who managed Larkin during his 1995 NL MVP season. “Yet when people ask who was the best and who did I most enjoy managing, it always came down to Larkin with me. He led by example and was the epitome of a manager’s dream.”

Larkin was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series