Editor’s note: This piece originally ran in January, but we’re re-running because Barry Larkin deserves it.
***Warning: I’m gonna ramble a bit here.***
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.
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.
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.
Blame Chad for creating this mess.
Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.
You can email Chad at firstname.lastname@example.org.