Hometown Hero Barry Larkin Now Enshrined In Cooperstown
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. _ Barry Larkin lost it before he even started. Vicki Santo never wavered as she honored her late husband, Ron. Baseball's highest honor always seems to leave a special impression on those directly involved.
Larkin, the former star shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, and Ron Santo, a standout third baseman for the Chicago Cubs and later a beloved broadcaster for the team, were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
After wiping away tears as his teenage daughter sang the national anthem, Larkin began a litany of thank-yous to the important people who helped him along his journey, none more important than his mom, Shirley, and father, Robert, who were seated in the first row.
``If we were going to do something, we were going to do it right,'' Larkin said. ``Growing up, you challenged me. That was so instrumental.''
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Larkin was a two-sport star at Moeller High School and thought he might become a pro football player after accepting a scholarship to play college ball at Michigan for Bo Schembechler. That changed in a hurry.
``He (Schembechler) redshirted me my freshman year and told me that he was going to allow me just to play baseball,'' Larkin said.
``Occasionally, I'd call him while I was playing in the big leagues and told him that was the best decision he made as a football coach. He didn't like that too much.''
Drafted fourth by the Reds in 1985, despite playing just 41 games his first year Larkin finished seventh in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1986.
Two years later, Larkin was an All-Star with a .296 average, 91 runs scored, 32 doubles and 40 stolen bases. And with a host of older players to guide him _ Eric Davis, Ron Oester, Buddy Bell, player-manager Pete Rose, a Cincinnati native, slugger Tony Perez, and even star shortstop Dave Concepcion, the man he would replace.
Larkin's major league career quickly took off.
``I played with some monumental figures in the game,'' said Larkin, who was introduced to baseball by his dad at the age of 5. ``They helped me through some very rough times as a player.''
After giving special thanks in Spanish to the Latin players that also helped mold him, Larkin heaped special praise on Rose and Concepcion.
``I wouldn't be in the big leagues if it weren't for Pete,'' Larkin said, eliciting a stirring applause from the fans, two of whom were holding a placard inscribed with ``Cincinnati's hometown heroes, Larkin and Rose.''
``And Dave Concepcion, understanding that I was gunning for his job, understanding that I was from Cincinnati, he spent countless hours with me preparing me for the game,'' Larkin said. ``I idolized Davey Concepcion as a kid. Thank you, my idol. My inclusion in the Hall of Fame is the ultimate validation. I want to thank you all for helping me along the way.''
Larkin, who played his entire 19-year career with the Reds, retired after the 2004 season with a .295 career average, 2,340 hits, 1,329 runs scored and 379 stolen bases.
Former Chicago Cubs All-Star Third Baseman Ron Santo was posthumously inducted by the Veterans’ Committee. He died Dec. 3, 2010, at the age of 70. His widow Vicky Santo delivered a stirring acceptance speech that left the thousands in attendance in Cooperstown more than a little misty.