Larkin elected to Reds Hall of Fame
Former Reds great one of four to be immortalized by club
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There is no debate and never has been. Barry Larkin is one of the best Reds players to ever wear the wishbone 'C' on his cap.
That fact is now one of historical document. On Wednesday, Larkin was one of four to be named to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. The former shortstop will be inducted along with outfielder Cesar Geronimo, pitcher Joey Jay and front office executive Garry Herrmann.
Larkin was selected by fans vote while the other three were elected by the veterans committee. He received 16,386 of the 25,269 fan votes tabulated in August at Great American Ball Park, the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum and online at reds.com.
"It felt really good. I'm honored and humbled -- all at the same time," Larkin said from his home in Florida.
A native of Cincinnati and a Reds player for his entire 19-year career, from 1986-2004, Larkin had a lifetime average of .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs and 379 stolen bases. He was a 12-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner and the 1995 National League Most Valuable Player. He was a main cog in the team's last World Series championship in 1990.
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. He was rated by baseball historian Bill James as one of the "10 most complete players in history" and the sixth-greatest shortstop ever. In 1997, Larkin was named the team's captain, a position he held until retirement.
"The Reds are the oldest and most storied franchise," Larkin said. "Being a part of that, having a chance to play there, growing up as a Reds fan in Cincinnati and living my childhood dream -- it all comes into play. I told players all the time that I'm living a dream. And it just continues. It was a great ride."
As Larkin emerged in the late '80s, he helped evolve the perception of a shortstop. Once a spot often reserved for light hitters with great fielding skills, Larkin was an uncommon offensive threat when he broke in. Now the game is filled with similar types of players like Derek Jeter and Miguel Tejada.
"Guys before me played well offensively and defensively -- like Davey Concepcion and Garry Templeton -- they were guys I fashioned my game after," Larkin said. "I see myself as a guy that much like Davey and Garry, who never got much recognition. I got more recognized as an offensive threat and multi-dynamic player by hitting home runs and for average and stealing bases while playing good defense. I see myself as a trailblazer. It's expected now that if you play shortstop in the big leagues, you have to do well in both sides of the game."
Larkin isn't eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot until 2010.
Geronimo, 59, spent nine seasons with Cincinnati from 1972-1980. The center fielder from the famed "Big Red Machine" teams, he is the seventh member of that illustrious lineup to be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.
Originally a member of the Astros when he broke into the Majors in 1969, Geronimo was part of a seven-player trade to the Reds on Nov. 29, 1971, that also brought Joe Morgan to Cincinnati. While with the Reds, Geronimo batted .261 and won four consecutive NL Gold Gloves from 1974-77.
Jay spent six seasons with the Reds from 1961-66 and was 75-63 with a 3.80 ERA in 186 games, including 150 starter. His first two seasons with Cincinnati were his best. A 21-game winner both years, he is one of just five Reds pitchers since 1900 to win at least 20 games in consecutive seasons.
Now 72 and a retired businessman living in Tampa, Fla., Jay never expected to be contacted by the Reds.
"It was a big surprise and definitely a big honor," Jay said. "They have very illustrious alumni and it's very humbling to a part of it."
Herrmann, a Cincinnati native, was the Reds' chief executive officer and general manager from 1902-27. He was in charge when the team won its first World Series in 1919 and spearheaded the construction of Redland Field, later known as Crosley Field, where the team played from 1912-1970.
In 1903, Herrmann was chosen by baseball owners to be the president of the National Commission, baseball's governing body at the time, and held that title until 1920. In that capacity, he was instrumental in mediating a conflict between the American and National Leagues that led to the establishment of the modern World Series in 1905. The achievement that earned him the nickname "The Father of the World Series." Herrmann was 71 when he died in 1931.
The largest and oldest continually operating team Hall of Fame in baseball with roots that date back 50 years, the Reds Hall of Fame now has 75 members, including 69 players, three managers and three executives.
Geronimo and Jay are slated to be at Redsfest this weekend to be honored. Larkin will be headed to Asia to do work for MLB International. Formal Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies for the four Reds is scheduled for July 19 at Great American Ball Park.
Larkin, 43, currently works in the Washington Nationals front office and has had no ties to the team he played for since retiring. A rift with members of Reds management -- many of whom have since departed -- has kept him away. Larkin had changed his mind about retiring near the end of the 2004 season, but was told by the team he wouldn't be brought back.
"The way I left Cincinnati was one of the hardest things I had to do," Larkin said. "That was very emotional and a tough thing to leave Cincinnati. I thought I had time left but was shown the door. I really wanted to be there and continue to do my thing in Cincinnati."
Reconciliation appears possible, however. Larkin plans on being at the ballpark for his enshrinement. During Ken Griffey Jr.'s recent charity golf tournament in Orlando, Larkin met members of the current Reds ownership regime, including the Castellini family.
"I must say they're reaching out and it's very much appreciated," Larkin said. "The future of my reconnecting with the organization looks promising.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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