By Devon POV Mason | Contributor
Barry Larkin wanted to be a shortstop ever since he was a kid watching his idol, Ozzie Smith, on television. Growing up in the Cincinnati suburbs, Larkin wanted to play for the legendary Cincinnati Reds and replace Dave Concepcion at short.
He says his dream was to replace Concepcion and then become the greatest shortstop in Reds history.
“Born April 28, 1964, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Larkin was an honor student and athletic star at Cincinnati’s Moeller High School and enrolled at the University of Michigan with the idea of playing both baseball and football.
But when legendary UM football coach Bo Schembechler advised Larkin to redshirt his freshman year, Larkin’s path to Cooperstown began.”
June 2, 1985: With the fourth overall pick in the MLB Draft, the Cincinnati Reds select shortstop Barry Larkin from the University of Michigan. #RedsVault
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) June 3, 2021
After college, Larkin played on the 1984 US Olympic Team. When he got to the Reds, he eventually replaced Concepcion.
Larkin also wanted to wear No.1 to honor his idol Ozzie, but the equipment manager told Larkin the number was retired and permanently reserved for Fred Hutchinson.
Larkin had no idea who Hutchinson was, but he asked for No.11 to reinforce how much he admired and idolized “The Wizard of Ozzie”
Barry eventually wrestled the Gold Glove away from Ozzie, won an MVP Award, and had his number retired by the Reds also.
Of the great shortstops, Larkin possibly has the best compilation of skills: He could run as fast as teammate Eric Davis, he possessed the strongest arm among the shortstops of his generation — and only Ozzie was better with the web.
A multi-faceted batter, Larkin concentrated on hitting for average, stealing bases and setting the table. But he was capable of going deep when the situation called for it. He stole 51 bases in 141 games, while winning the NL MVP in 1995, but for some reason was criticized for not driving in enough runs, so he came back the following season and banged all his critics in the head with 33 home run and 36 steals at the age of 32.
The Injury Bug
It’s hard to discuss Larkin without mentioning his injury-riddled history. He was placed on the disabled list fourteen times in his career. He only had 6 seasons where he didn’t spend time on the DL.
Those injuries (legs, thumbs, knee, shoulders, and even his toe), sidelined him for 450 career games. That alone probably cost him another 450-500 hits with his batting prowess. The talent was always evident, but despite his HOF swag, and championship pedigree, he always faced criticism, and was even referred to as “Mr. Glass.”
He had to continuously prove himself and relied on a strong will to overcome setbacks.
Larkin was a 12-time All-Star, including his final season when he was still a valuable player. Despite his frequent absence from the lineup, Larkin was always a great teammate and team leader.
He was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012, following a career also garnered him an MVP (1995), World Series Title (1990), three Gold Glove Awards and nine Silver Slugger Awards.
He was simply a stud up the middle and one of the finest examples of MLBbro excellence at the shortstop position.