Larkin, Barry 1964–
Barry Larkin 1964–
Professional baseball player
Barry Louis Larkin was born on April 28, 1964 in Cincinnati, Ohio and would grow up to become one of that city’s favorite sons and one of Major League Baseball’s most productive players. Although Larkin grew up in an athletic family, his parents made sure that their children were well-rounded. On holidays, the Larkins often spent their time with the elderly or at homeless shelters. Larkin attended Moeller High School and starred in football, baseball, and basketball. After graduating in 1982, Larkin attended the University of Michigan where he twice led the Wolverines to the College World Series. In his three years at Michigan, Larkin compiled a .361 batting average and was the first baseball player to be twice named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Big Ten. He was also named First Team All-American in 1984 and 1985. After his junior year at Michigan Larkin decided to turn professional and, barely a month after his college career ended, the Cincinnati Reds made him their first-round draft choice with the fourth overall selection. Larkin immediately reported to Vermont in the AA Eastern League and helped to lead the team to a championship.
The following season, Larkin was sent to Cincinnati’s AAA ball club in Denver. He took the American Association by storm, batting. 329 and hitting ten home runs. He was named to the American Association’s All-Star team, and won the league’s MVP, and Rookie of the Year awards. All of these accolades attracted the attention of the Reds. Larkin was called up to the Cincinnati Reds on August 13,1986. Because he arrived in Cincinnati before any of his luggage, he played his first major league game wearing shorts, a batting glove and spikes that he borrowed from his new teammates. Despite this rough start, Larkin knocked in a run for his first major-league at-bat. He would go on to bat .306 with 14 runs batted in (RBI) in the last 24 games of the season. Despite a great major-league start, Larkin battled injuries in 1987 that included a hyper-extended knee. In 1988, Larkin batted .296 and earned the first of ten trips to the All-Star Game. He also led the major leagues by striking out only 24 times in 652 times at bat. In 1989, Larkin seemed destined for a tremendous season. At the All-Star break, he was third
At a Glance…
Born Barry Louis Larkin, April 28, 1964 in Cincin nati, OH; son of Bob (a chemist) and Shirley (a community activist); married; children: Brielle D’Shea, Cymber Nicole, DeShane Davis. Education: attended the University of Michigan.
Career: Played football, basketball, and baseball at Cincinnati’s Moeller High School, 1979–82; played baseball for the University of Michigan, 1983–85; drafted in the first round (fourth overall) by the Cincinnati Reds, 1985; played in Denver, CO at the AAA level, 1986; shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, 1987-.
Awards: Big Ten MVP and First-Team All-American, 1984–85; American Association MVP and Rookie of the Year, 1986; National League All-Star, 1988–91, 1993–97; Silver Slugger award winner, 1988–92, 1995–96, 1998; Gold Glove winner, 1994–96; National League MVP, 1995; finalist for the Branch Rickey “Service Over Self award, 1996, 1998; Reds official team captain, 1997.
Addresses: Home— Orlando, FL; Office—do The Cincinnati Reds, 100 Cinergy Field, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
in the National League in batting with a .340 average. Larkin was also named to the All-Star team. However, during an exhibition skills competition, he tore the medial collateral ligament in his elbow. His brilliant season was finished.
In 1990, Larkin and the Reds enjoyed a remarkable season that was capped by a World Series sweep of the Oakland A’s. Larkin was named to his third consecutive All-Star game and, on four occasions, had hitting streaks of ten games or more. He finished the season with a .301 average and was healthy throughout the Reds run for the pennant. In the World Series, Larkin batted .353 and was named the Reds Most Valuable Player. The following year Larkin batted over .300 for the third year in a row, became a member of the National League All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year, and won the Reds’ MVP Award. He also hit 20 home runs, which at that time tied a Reds record for homers in a season by a shortstop. Larkin’s 69 RBIs led all National League shortstops during the 1991 campaign, in spite of the fact that he was sidelined for three weeks with elbow problems.
Prior to the 1992 season, the Reds made Larkin one of the highest-payed players in baseball by signing him through the 1996 season for $25.6 million. Before signing the new contract with the Reds, Larkin nearly left the team. Following the team’s fifth place finish in 1991, Larkin spoke out publicly about what he perceived as the organization’s lack of desire to win. He also hinted that he might leave the club via free agency. Larkin told the Associated Press, “Throughout the years, I’ve been kind of vocal about questioning the commitment to winning here. The things that happened this off-season showed me that this team does want to win. This is the kind of situation I want to be in.” The team’s decision to re-sign Larkin paid dividends immediately as he batted .304 and led all National League shortstops with 78 RBIs in 1992. These accomplishments came after one of Larkin’s slowest career starts. He was batting only .179 when he sprained his knee on April 15, and went on the disabled list four days later. When he was activated on May 8, Larkin played 128 of the next 129 games. In 1992 he also started a long association with the Caring Team of Athletes, Inc., donating money to the charity each time he hit safely in a game.
Larkin started the 1993 season on an ominous note. He hurt his thumb before the second game of the season, although fans did not notice that Larkin was hurt. He was voted onto the All-Star team as a starter for the first time and finished the season with a .315 average. As the season wore on, Larkin’s injury worsened. He went on the disabled list on August 5th and his thumb was placed in a cast 11 days later, thus ending a promising season. In 1994, Larkin finished the year with a batting average below .300 for the first time in five seasons. Because a players strike ended the season early, Larkin did not have time to overcome his slow start at the plate. However, he was named to the All-Star team for the sixth time and won his first Gold Glove.
The 1995 season became a milestone for Larkin. The perennial All-Star was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player and led his team to the playoffs. Early in the season, Larkin summed up his game for Frank Lidz of Sports Illustrated, “I consider myself an amoeba man. I’ll assume any shape to help the team. If the team needs someone to lead by example, I do that. If it needs someone to steal, I do that. If it needs someone to bunt or move a runner from second to third, I do that.” Larkin started off the 1995 season quickly, hitting safely in 12 straight games from April 26 to May 9. In May of 1995, he batted .326 with two home runs and 18 RBIs. On the eighth of June, a pitch hit Larkin on the hand. He needed stitches on the back of his thumb and missed six games. After returning to the lineup, Larkin’s bat was silenced and he went into a seven-for-62 slump. His batting average plummeted from .353 to .278. Larkin then went on a 13-game hitting streak. By the end of the 1995 season, Larkin was sixth in the National League in batting average (.319), second in stolen bases (51), fifth in runs (98), ninth in on-base percentage (.394), and tenth in hits (158). He also made only 11 errors in 544 appearances at shortstop, and won his second consecutive Gold Glove. Larkin summed up his season for Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times in typical understated fashion, “I played my game this year. This year it was critiqued, and people appreciated it for what it was. Because we were able to win, they spoke about it more often.” Larkin also started his second All-Star game, and led the Reds to the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After the season Larkin signed another deal with the Reds, again making him one of the highest-paid players in baseball. Larkin followed up his MVP season with a sterling 1996 campaign. He hit 33 home runs and stole 36 bases to become the first shortstop in the history of the major leagues to join the 30/30 club. In addition to career-highs in home runs, Larkin established new personal highs in runs scored (117) and RBIs (89). He led the Reds in each of those categories and finished second in hits (154) with a .298 batting average. Larkin was acknowledged by the fans as the premier shortstop in the National League by being voted to start in the All-Star game for the third consecutive year. He also excelled on the defensive side of the diamond, earning his third Gold Glove at shortstop.
In 1997, Larkin was named the first official captain of the Cincinnati Reds since 1988. However, he battled injuries during the entire season, and appeared in only 73 games. Larkin developed Achilles tendon problems in his left foot, and a bone spur on his left big toe. He twice received cortisone injections so that he would be able to play. Despite his injuries, Larkin hit .317 for the season, and was named the National League Player of the Week in late May after hitting .583 with three home runs and six RBIs. He was also voted to start in the All-Star Game, but was unable to play due to injuries. Larkin was on the disabled list from mid-June until August first with a strained left calf. His season ended in September when he underwent surgery to correct problems with his left heel. Off the field, Larkin’s Caring Team of Athletes, Inc. donated $25,000 to schools in Kentucky which were decimateo by flooding.
Larkin’s season got off to a rocky start in 1998. After appearing in just two spring training games, he underwent surgery to repair a bulging disc in his neck. There were also rumors that he might be traded as Cincinnati slashed $15 million from its payroll in an effort to save money and develop younger players. Larkin stayed with the team and returned to the lineup on April 7, 1998. In his first 25 games, he hit a paltry .169. Following this slow start, Larkin hit .336 the rest of the season to finish with a .309 average—leading all National League shortstops in batting average, home runs (17), and RBIs (72). Trade rumors involving Larkin continued to persist. At one point in the season, Larkin told his agent to ask for a trade to a contending team. When the Reds traded Bret Boone, perhaps the organization’s most promising young player, following the 1998 season, Larkin expressed his frustration to Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer, “I want to win. I don’t want to pay out the string. I don’t want to be a coach. It’s about winning, not about wanting to be here or there. If I have a chance to win here, great. If I don’t, move me…It’s not about me. It’s about winning.” Larkin was heavily criticized by the Cincinnati fans and media for his statement.
As the 1999 season began, Larkin remained with the Reds and served as a role model for younger players. Larkin told Daugherty of The Cincinnati Enquirer about the motivation behind his earlier comments, “I don’t know if it was a matter of being mad. It was a matter of not knowing what was going on and being the captain of the team. It was having teammates calling me and asking what’s going on and not being able to give them an answer.” During the 1999 season, Larkin appeared in a career-high 161 games and posted a .293 batting average with 12 home runs and 75 RBIs. He also led the Reds to within one game of the National League playoffs, where they finished behind the New York Mets on the last day of the season. By the end of the 1999 season, Larkin had played in 1,707 games, knocked out 1,884 hits, hit 168 home runs, batted in 793 RBIs, and compiled a career average of .299. The only question that remained about Larkin’s career was whether or not he would be a future inductee into baseball’s Hall of Fame. For Reds fans, however, there is no doubt about Larkin’s value to the city. As teammate Mark Sweeney told Chris Haft of the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Barry, he’s Cincinnati.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer, March 1, 1999 (Two articles).
The Los Angeles Times, January 20,1992; November 16, 1995.
Sports Illustrated, June 12, 1995.
—Michael J. Watkins
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