Barry Larkin will never forget July 22, 2012. Neither will his ESPN colleagues.
The ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst and legendary major league shortstop will be immortalized when he enters the National Baseball Hall of Fame this afternoon in Cooperstown, N.Y.
It surely will be an emotional day. Not only will “Lark” become part of eternal baseball lore, but his daughter Cymber will sing the National Anthem.
Larkin’s legendary 19-year career with the Cincinnati Reds includes a World Championship, 12 All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, a National League MVP award and the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. He leads a Hall of Fame class that includes Ron Santo, Toronto Sun baseball writer Bob Elliott and broadcaster Tim McCarver.
Larkin helped revolutionize the shortstop position with his combination of defensive dexterity and offensive firepower, paving the way for offensively-gifted shortstops like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and ESPN’s Nomar Garciaparra.
Since the Hall-of-Fame announcement was made on Jan. 9, Larkin’s former teammates, coaches and colleagues have touted both his incredible on-field displays, and for being a class act and ambassador for the game.
Jim Bowden, ESPN.com MLB Insider and a former GM of the Reds, offered his perspective in this blog post.
Here are other ESPN analysts, reporters and producers on Larkin’s big day:
Terry Francona (Sunday Night Baseball, Baseball Tonight)
I was honored to be Barry’s teammate in 1987. And although he was so very young, you could see stardom written all over him. Not only is he a Hall of Fame player, but he is a Hall of Fame person.
Orel Hershiser (Sunday Night Baseball, Baseball Tonight)
Barry was always one of the best players on the field and a tough out. He could change a game with his glove, legs or bat and always put the Reds first.
Tim Kurkjian (Baseball Tonight, Monday Night Baseball)
Barry Larkin is, by most measures, one of the best seven or eight shortstops of all time. He was the first shortstop ever to have a 30-homer, 30-steal season. He won an MVP at shortstop, as well as a World Championship. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are the only shortstops in history that can match Larkin’s triple crown numbers. I will remember him most for his tremendous athleticism, a stunning combination of speed and strength and defense. A couple of major leaguers that played with him in an off-season trip to Japan came home with the same thought: Barry Larkin is as good an athlete as we’ve seen in a baseball uniform.
Pedro Gomez (Baseball Tonight, Wednesday Night Baseball)
One ex-player once told me Barry Larkin is not a Hall of Fame player because, “when we had our meetings before a series his name never came up.” There is so much more to a Hall of Fame player and Larkin epitomized all of that every day he was on and off the field. He knew how to beat an opponent in so many different ways. He may not have been flashy, but he is more than deserving of this honor.
Jayson Stark (ESPN MLB Insider)
In my Stark Truth book, I nominated Barry Larkin as the most underrated shortstop of all time. And I still think he is, even though he’s heading for the Hall of Fame. In that book, I used this anecdote, which sums up his Hall qualifications perfectly.
After Larkin retired, I asked a longtime National League pitcher if he thought Larkin belonged in the Hall of Fame. He just started laughing. “If you were in gym class and you had to pick a shortstop, and your choices were Phil Rizzuto, Ozzie Smith, Pee Wee Reese or Larkin,” the pitcher said, “you’d take Barry Larkin, wouldn’t you? Heck, you’d take him and not even think twice. You’d take him and think, `Boy, that was an easy decision.’
Karl Ravech (Baseball Tonight)
I remember Barry’s introduction to Baseball Tonight. We were scheduled to fly from Hartford to LA, but plane troubles forced us to make a quick decision and rent car to drive to Laguardia [Airport in New York City] to assure us we would make it on time. Lark never blinked. He handled it with class, as smoothly as he handled his Hall of Fame career.
Jed Drake (Senior Vice-President & Executive Producer)
We knew Barry was a lock for the Hall when we brought him to our team last year. We’re thrilled for him that he made it to the Hall so quickly, a further acknowledgment of his remarkable career.
Steve Berthiaume (Baseball Tonight)
What I found most interesting in chatting with Barry about this was how much this honor meant to him even as it went unsaid. You could see simply by the look on Barry’s face and the emotion in his eyes how deeply affected he was as he prepared to leave for Cooperstown.
Nick Davis (Coordinating Producer)
Working with Barry Larkin on Baseball Tonight over the last two seasons has been a delight. He brings to the table insights that few can match, and his perspective on the way players think gives us a valuable insider’s view into Major League clubhouses. It’s a genuine thrill to have him on our ESPN MLB staff as he enters the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Pete McConville (Coordinating Producer)
As an analyst Barry is among the most thoughtful we have. He remembers situations from his days on the field and presents that perspective on the air. All of our other analysts that faced him (especially the pitchers) say he was a major pain in the butt to face. He was incredibly tough to get out and rarely made mistakes. Not a fun person to see on the other team.