Barry Larkin (Chad Dotson/Redleg Nation)

***Warning: I’m gonna ramble a bit here.***

On Monday, my favorite baseball player was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

I’ve been thinking about Barry Larkin a lot these last few days. If you’ve read Redleg Nation for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m one of these gooey, Field of Dreams-type baseball fans. In everyday life, I’m not emotional whatsoever, but baseball moves me sometimes.

I’ve been in love with the game of baseball for many years. During that time, I enjoyed watching Barry Larkin play the game more than any other player…and it’s really not even close.

Larkin, of course, played for the Cincinnati Reds his entire career. I watched and listened to a lot of Reds games during those years, and Larkin was simply a joy to behold. He did everything well; Bill James once said that Larkin was one of the ten most complete players of all time. That’s a great way to describe Barry. He hit well, he fielded well, he ran bases well, he was a leader. The consummate Cincinnati Red, in my mind.

Barry Larkin (Chad Dotson/Redleg Nation)

Yes, I’m a little irritated that it took this long. Sure, Larkin should have been elected to the Hall of Fame two years ago. I’ll take what we can get.

If we’re being honest here, there are a number of players who should have been elected this year along with Larkin. I would have voted for Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, and Edgar Martinez. Secretly, though, I’m glad Larkin was the only player elected by the baseball writers. I love the fact that Larkin is going to be celebrated by the baseball world for the next 6+ months. Can there be any better representative of Cincinnati?

Since we’ll be honoring Larkin all season long, I want to encourage all Reds fans to focus on Barry. Let’s not use this time to talk about Pete Rose, or to advocate for Davey Concepcion (no matter how strongly you feel about their candidacies). This is Larkin’s moment. Let him shine.

On a related note: it’s time for the Reds organization to retire Larkin’s #11. It has been unofficially retired, of course, since Larkin’s last game, but it’s time to get that number up there next to Bench, Morgan, and the rest. I know people tend to think of Johnny Bench, or Pete Rose, or even Ted Kluszewski as the face of the Reds franchise. In my mind, it is and always will be Barry Larkin.

Barry Larkin (Chad Dotson/Redleg Nation)

He’s a Cincinnati kid, played his entire career here, and ended up in the Hall of Fame. What more can you want? Retire that number, Bob Castellini. And while you’re at it, bring Barry back into the organization, in some capacity.

I’m in the process of planning my trip to Cooperstown for Larkin’s induction ceremony in late July. Anyone else planning to go? I visited the Hall of Fame once before, about fifteen years ago, and that trip was a blast. This one will be even better. If you haven’t been to the HOF, I can’t imagine a better opportunity. It should be a good time, and a fun celebration of Barry Larkin and the Reds. If you have the means, do it. You won’t regret it.

Okay, I know I have rambled a bit here (I warned you!), but I’ve been thinking a lot about Larkin and I wanted to post my thoughts. Thanks for indulging me. Mostly, I’m happy for Larkin, and I’m glad I got to watch him play.

Congratulations, #11. Thanks for the memories.

15 Responses

  1. RiverCity Redleg

    I was thinking the same thing, “why is #11 not retired onto the GABP wall?”

  2. Jason1972

    I remember as a Reds fan feeling so confident in Larkin as a player that I never cringed when he was up to bat, I felt he was automatic in any pressure situation. The only Red since then whom I have felt that way about is Votto.

  3. Bill Lack

    I think your point about the “face of the franchise” is interesting. I think who you think of that way may have a lot to do with your age.

  4. Dan

    Good post, Chad. Fun stuff. It’s fun to let the fan (especially the “kid fan” from our past) come out now and then. 🙂

    Fun little trivia tidbit – do you remember who was wearing #11 when Larkin first came up? And what number Larkin got at first?

    (I have a random memory from a long time ago of seeing an official-looking Reds jersey in Koch’s downtown with this “other” number on it, and I thought it was both weird to look at and very cool.)

  5. Furniture City Red

    …and yes. Retire #11 in 2012. His jersey belongs up their with the other Reds Greats.

  6. PRoseFutureHOFer

    Chad – great piece, ramble all you want. I live in NY and I’ve never been to the HOF. I’ve boycotted the place, and you can guess why. That will change this summer. Barry wasn’t my all time favorite player, but he’s probably in my top 5. I have to be there for his induction. I must say, however, I’m glad you don’t have a HOF vote! Barry and Jack Morris are the only two I would have voted for (though I’d seriously consider Bagwell) and I wish Santo wasn’t going in. No way, no how is he a hall of famer. Sorry.

  7. vermilion red

    Hey Dan, I remember number 15 on Lark because I believe Kurt Stillwell had 11. Remember when there was a discussion about whom would be the SS of the future? Wow. Anyhow, I also remember when Reds’ fans were miffed with Larkin for refusing a trade to the Mets, but how much better is the HOF induction without a single card/photo/memory of Larkin wearing any other team’s uniform?

  8. Dan

    @vermilion red: You got it! Nice. Yeah, Stillwell wore #11 in 1986 and 87, before he was traded to Kansas City. Larkin wore #15.

    And I also remember the debates – both Stillwell and Larkin were very highly regarded. I think we made the right choice there!

  9. pinson343

    Great post Chad. I live near NYC and will make the trip to Cooperstown for Barry’s induction. Let’s touch base about that when the time draws near. Maybe a meeting time and place can be set for RLN members.

  10. pinson343

    @vermilion red: I live in the NY area, and I only recall Mets fans being miffed about Barry’s “refusal” to become a Met. Actually he couldn’t refuse – he could not veto the trade – but he made his lack of enthusiasm known. In what was to be his final weekend with the Reds, he received a standing ovation every time he came to the plate, and then Carl Lindner pulled the plug on the trade.

    At least that’s the account I’ve read from numerous sources.

  11. Redsfanx

    Barry Larkin, the epitome of a solid, all around ballplayer. He could do everything. Congratulations. 😀