Newly elected Larkin honored by Cincinnati

Newly elected Larkin honored by Cincinnati

Newly elected Larkin honored by Cincinnati
CINCINNATI -- Reds great shortstop Barry Larkin learned he was elected to the Hall of Fame at his house in Orlando, Fla., on Monday. He was feted during a Tuesday news conference in New York.

Wednesday was all about Larkin's hometown of Cincinnati and enjoying the moment with his family. The 47-year-old was part of a press conference at Great American Ball Park while flanked by his wife, Lisa, his parents Shirley and Robert, and two of his four siblings -- Byron and Stephen.

"These last two days have been an absolute blur," Larkin said. "Strategically, Lisa and I decided that today was going to be the day that we came to Cincinnati. All the other stuff, we got out of the way. We could take a deep breath. We could come to Cincinnati and set up how we're going to celebrate this induction with the city of Cincinnati. And that's important. I'm really looking forward to that day.

"Yes, this is a personal accolade for me, but I'm a product of the environment that's been set up for me."

Without going into detail, the Reds revealed they plan to hold a Barry Larkin Night during the 2012 season, and there will also be a Larkin exhibit all year at the club's Hall of Fame. An announcement for both honors will come at a later date.

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Larkin also said he is making plans of his own celebration with fans of Cincinnati, but has yet to get specific.

"It's a great time to be a Reds fan, a member of the Reds organization or both," Reds broadcasting great Marty Brennaman said.

On Monday, Larkin became the 24th shortstop to be elected to the Hall, and the 11th by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He was on 86.4 percent of ballots cast, well over the minimum 75 percent, and is also only the 48th Hall of Fame player out of 297 members to spend his entire career with one club. He played all 19 of his seasons for the Reds from 1986-2004.

Larkin is also the first native of Greater Cincinnati to be elected to the Hall by the writers.

Among his many on-field achievements, Larkin had a lifetime average of .295, with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits, a .371 on-base percentage and 379 stolen bases. He was also a 12-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, a nine-time Silver Slugger Award winner, a member of the 1990 World Series championship team and the 1995 National League Most Valuable Player. But his manner and grace off the field were just as remembered by those that were around him.

"I saw all but five games of his Major League career," Brennaman said as he emceed the press conference. "I remember when he came to the big leagues and a Reds camp for the first time. He was very wet behind the ears and was blessed with the fact he had a lot of guys who mentored him and showed him the rights and wrongs as every young player ought to have. Then as the years rolled by, and he was at the position day in and day out and accumulating the numbers and accumulating the fame and attention, he never changed.

"He lived his life with class and he played the game the same way."

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory presented Larkin with a proclamation in his honor from city council to honor him not only for what he did on the field, but for the region.

"Pretty much every day as the Mayor of this great city, I get to cut a ribbon, turn some dirt or preside over a council meeting -- which is always exciting," Mallory said. "But I rarely get the opportunity to do something that is this magnificent. You could not hope to be able to do what I am doing here today, and that is saying congratulations to a great sports figure and a great Cincinnatian on a great set of accomplishments and being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame."

Larkin's parents were asked if they knew they had a special athlete in their midst as they raised him in their Silverton home, just outside of Cincinnati.

"I've always thought he was special," Shirley Larkin said. "When the boys were playing with each other, it didn't seem that one outdid the other because each one was trying to outdo the other. I guess until someone from the outside said to us that this kid is special, we never really thought of him as anything more than one of the five kids in my family, sorry."

"When he was 12 years old, I thought his head was getting a little bit too big, because the Little League coaches were all fighting over him," Robert Larkin said. "I thought I'd bring him down. Once Saturday, he and I had a bucket of baseballs and went out to the baseball field. I said I'll strike him out and show him he can't hit everything. Well, I tried to strike him out. In those days, I could throw hard. I could not strike this 12-year-old out. So I knew he was special."

Interjected Barry Larkin: "That's because he was tipping his pitches."

Larkin has yet to decide on who will introduce him before his induction speech, slated for July 22 in Cooperstown. He's already got an eager volunteer in older brother Byron, who is one of Xavier University's all-time great basketball stars.

"Byron called me up the other day," Larkin said. "This was before the announcement came out. He said, 'When you get inducted, who are you going to have introduce you?' [I said], 'I hadn't thought about it. Are you telling me something?' He said 'Yeah! And I would do a real good job.'"

Cincinnati was always a special place for Larkin, which he underscored near the end of his playing career. He nearly waived his no-trade clause in 2000 to play for the Mets, but didn't after New York declined to give him a three-year contract extension. He ended up signing that extension with the Reds to finish his career.

"I'm glad I was able to complete it here," Larkin said. "It didn't feel right to play in another uniform. After the 2004 season, I wasn't really sure if I was done. I had an offer from St. Louis. I remember [manager] Tony La Russa called and asked if I wanted to play alongside Scotty Rolen and hit in front of Albert Pujols. I told him I grew up thinking Cardinal Red is the wrong shade of red."

Larkin instead became a special assistant to then-Nationals general manager Jim Bowden in 2005. But there was a chance that spring to consider coming out of retirement and play.

"I remember being out there," Larkin said. "I had a uniform and everything, but it didn't say Cincinnati on the front. I didn't feel like I could give my heart and soul to any other organization."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.