Anxious final hour ends with relief for Larkin

Anxious final hour ends with relief for Larkin

Anxious final hour ends with relief for Larkin
NEW YORK -- The last hour waiting for the call from the Hall of Fame turned out to be the toughest for Barry Larkin and his family.

The newest member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame said on Tuesday that as the minutes ticked away toward Monday's 3 p.m. ET witching hour, the mood in the Larkin's Orlando, Fla., home became more and more tense.

"As 2:30, 2:45 came and went I was looking at my wife and my oldest daughter and they were just sitting there," Larkin recalled after Tuesday's media conference formally announcing his election by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "It was kind of warm in Orlando that day. It wasn't that warm, but they were fanning themselves. I'm going, 'OK, there's a little anxiety going on here right now.' And I was anxious as well."

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When the call finally came from Jack O'Connell, the secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, at 2:52 p.m., Larkin said he stared at the phone ringing on the wall in kind of a numb disbelief. Larkin finally picked it up after a few jingles and O'Connell asked him how his day had already been.

"It's pretty good," Larkin said. "I felt like a kid."

"Well, I'm about to make it a lot better," O'Connell responded. "Congratulations."

And with that, the veteran of 19 seasons -- all with his hometown Cincinnati Reds -- was told he had become the 112th player and 11th shortstop elected to the Hall by the BBWAA. He's also the sole electee off the ballot distributed to eligible members of the BBWAA late this past year.

"This has been extremely exciting," said Larkin's wife, Lisa, of 22 years on Tuesday. "He and I actually grew up together. I remember his face as a kid, outside playing in the yard. He has looked like that little boy for the last two days now. He can't stop smiling. It's so enjoyable to see how in awe he is about all this. He's usually so calm and settled, but he's just so excited."

It's only going to become more hectic and exciting for Larkin, his wife and their three children in the coming months after Larkin received 86.4 percent of the vote to make it in his third year on the ballot. Any electee to the Hall needs to reach at least the 75 percent threshold, and Larkin surpassed that in fine fashion.

He will be inducted into the Hall during this year's ceremonies on July 21-22 in Cooperstown, N.Y., joining legendary Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, who was elected posthumously last month by the Golden Era Committee. They will be inducted on July 22 behind the Clark Sports Center. Ford C. Frick Award winner and FOX color analyst Tim McCarver, plus J.G. Taylor Spink Award electee Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, will be honored in a separate ceremony on July 21 at Doubleday Field.

In Larkin's case, there will be no controversy about caps. Larkin -- like Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn and Jim Rice in recent years -- played his entire career with one team and will go in with a Reds insignia etched on his plaque.

Larkin said on Tuesday that his career might have ended differently had he approved a trade to the Mets near the conclusion of it. But then Mets general manager Steve Phillips didn't offer him a three-year contract extension, and after that "the deal just fell apart," said Larkin, who made his big league debut in 1986 in Cincinnati and finished right there in 2004.

"We were here and we were ready [to go to New York], and Lisa will tell you," Larkin said. "Once I had her blessing it was, 'OK, we're going to do this.'"

It didn't happen. Instead, Larkin finished as a 12-time National League All-Star, won three Gold Gloves and was a nine-time Silver Slugger. Larkin was a member of the Reds squad that swept the A's in the 1990 World Series and was the NL Most Valuable Player in 1995. His .295 lifetime batting average was 33 points higher than that of Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith, who was elected predominantly for his defense in 2002. Ripken, elected along with Gwynn in 2007, hit .277 as a shortstop, the position he played for most of his stellar 21-year career with the Orioles.

"Barry Larkin did it all, and that's why he's sitting here," said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson in introducing Larkin on Tuesday.

But there were certainly a few anxious moments getting to this point, Lisa Larkin confessed. Unlike Smith and Ripken, Larkin wasn't elected two years ago in his first year on the ballot. Last year, when Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were inducted, Larkin's name appeared on 62.1 percent of the ballots cast.

When the voting was conducted last month, Larkin said he would be too occupied to worry about it. But his wife said that really wasn't the case.

"I think the past years he was a little calmer and he hadn't set any expectations," she said. "This year, he was asking me questions like, 'Will you be disappointed if it doesn't happen?' And I said, 'No, I won't be. I'll be a little sad. But it's inevitable. It will happen. How about you?' He said, 'It's starting to get to me. I might be a little disappointed.' And then he didn't think it was going to happen because that phone call didn't come until about 2:52."

At that moment, though, all the anxiety dissipated.

"[O'Connell] told me about the overwhelming support and I went, 'Wow,'" Larkin said. "It's just been incredible."

Was he anymore anxious this time around?

"Only down to the wire," Larkin said.

Certainly, that last hour is the toughest.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.