Shortstop Barry Larkin Elected to Hall of Fame
NEW YORK (AP) — Barry Larkin joined with Cal Ripken Jr. in transforming shortstop into a position for powerful bats, not just great gloves. Now he's following Ripken into the Hall of Fame.
The former Cincinnati Reds shortstop was chosen on 495 of 573 ballots (86 percent) in voting announced Monday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, well above the necessary 75 percent.
"When I think of Barry, I think of a steady, smart and terrific all-around player both at shortstop and at the plate," Ripken said. "I wish we had played in the same league, but we were in 11 All-Star Games together and I always enjoyed being around him and talking baseball."
Larkin will be inducted July 22 in Cooperstown along with the late Ron Santo, elected last month by the Veterans Committee.
"I'm just incredibly, incredibly moved by this whole experience and so humbled by the experience and so excited about being the newest member of the Hall of Fame," he said on a conference call.
His election came in the final year before the Steroids Era becomes the main focus in balloting.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling are eligible for the first time next year.
Jack Morris followed Larkin with 382 votes (67 percent), missing by 48 votes on his 13th try but up sharply from 54 percent last year. Morris, the ace of three World Series winners, finished with 254 victories and was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s. His 3.90 ERA, however, is higher than that of any Hall of Famer.
He has two chances left on the BBWAA ballot. Gil Hodges (63.4 percent in 1983) has the highest percentage among players who never gained election.
Playing from 1986-04 — all with his hometown Reds — Larkin hit .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits and 379 stolen bases. A 12-time All-Star, he won the 1995 NL MVP award, nine Silver Slugger trophies and three Gold Gloves. He helped the Reds win the 1990 World Series and in 1996 became the first shortstop to have 30 homers and 30 steals in a season.
"Barry distinguished himself as a tremendous leader and a dominating player," Reds great Johnny Bench said. "Winning a World Series and an MVP plus Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards puts him among the elite players in Reds history."
Larkin received 52 percent when he appeared on the ballot for the first time in 2010, then got 62 percent last year when he fell 75 votes short. This year, he received the largest single-year percentage increase to gain election since 1948, when pitcher Herb Pennock was elected with 77.7 percent, a year after finishing with 53.4 percent.
Larkin is the 48th Hall of Famer who spent his entire career with one major league team and the third from the Reds, joining Bench and Bid McPhee. He credits Hall of Famer Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion for helping influence his career, and recalled fondly how he learned Spanish to better communicate with his teammates.
"Now he's with us, another guy in the family," Perez said.
With no big contenders among those in their first year of eligibility, several holdovers saw increases from last year: Jeff Bagwell (42 percent to 56 percent), Lee Smith (45 to 51), Tim Raines (38 to 49), Alan Trammell (24 to 37) and Edgar Martinez (33 to 37).
Bernie Williams received the most votes (55) among players who were eligible for the first time. Bill Mueller got just four votes and will be dropped in future years, along with Juan Gonzalez (23) and Vinny Castilla (six). Nine voters submitted blank ballots.
Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, received 19.5 percent in his sixth try, down from 19.8 percent last year and 23.7 percent in 2010 — a vote before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.
Rafael Palmeiro, among just four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, got 72 votes and his percentage increased to 12.6 from 11 last year in his first appearance. Palmeiro received a 10-day suspension in 2005 for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, claiming it was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.
Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP implicated by Jose Canseco in steroids use, received 30 votes last year, just above the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot.
In 2014, the focus will turn to elite pitchers when Greg Maddux (355 wins) and Tom Glavine (305) become eligible. Among pitchers eligible for the Hall, all 20 of the 300-game winners are in.