Barry Larkin Elevated The Shortstop Position

Barry Larkin Elevated The Shortstop Position

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.

Via baseballhall.org:

“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.”

 

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.

Cooperstown Worthy 

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.

Rickey Henderson Left Ty Cobb In The Dust 31 Years Ago

Rickey Henderson Left Ty Cobb In The Dust 31 Years Ago

By Devon POV Mason| Contributor 

On this day (May 29th) in 1990 Rickey Henderson stole the 893rd base of his career breaking Ty Cobb’s American League record.

The Stolen Base King would go onto  eventually obliterate Lou Brock’s MLB record of  938 and finishing his illustrious career with 1406 swipes.

Henderson set the single-season and career records for stolen bases over his 25-year Hall of Fame career and he did it with an unrivaled flair and effectiveness that made him one of the iconic superstars of the game.

“Yes I’m a hot dog. Yes I’m a showman. But remember this is baseball. This is entertainment. I’m an entertainer. Baseball was made to be fun.”

The greatest leadoff hitter the game has ever known was born on Christmas Day in 1958, in Chicago, Illinois.

He was selected by the Oakland As in the 1976 MLB Draft.

The dynamic leadoff hitter set a record with 130 stolen bases in the 1982 season, one of 12 times he led the league, and he was named American League MVP in 1990.

 

Henderson retired as baseball’s all-time leader in steals, runs, and walks. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Henderson known for his speed and quickness developed that chasing chickens on his grandmothers farm in Pine Bluff, Arkansas at a young age.

His family moved to Oakland CA, where the future baseball great began spending his days at renowned Bushrod Park, proving his athletic capabilities across an array of sports.

With his great speed, Henderson became an All-American running back at Oakland Technical High School. He also excelled in baseball, producing a .716 batting average as a junior.

Henderson was selected by the hometown Oakland A’s in the fourth round of the 1976 amateur baseball draft, but he also received dozens of college football scholarship offers.

After deferring the decision-making to his mom, who worried her son was too small for football, he signed with A’s and made an immediate impact in the minor leagues.

Halfway through the 1979 season he received his call-up to the club’s outfield. He batted .274 with 33 stolen bases over the remainder of the 1979 campaign with Oakland, and by the following season it was clear he was a special player.

He stole 100 bases to set a new American League record, and by using an exaggerated crouch in the batter’s box, he compiled 117 walks for an outstanding .420 on-base percentage.

He also used his speed to run down every ball in his vicinity in left field, earning a Gold Glove Award for his defense in 1981.

 

In 1982, Henderson blew past Hall of Famer Lou Brock’s big league record of 118 stolen bases in a season, en route to an seemingly untouchable mark of 130. Although he was earning a reputation for showmanship,

Henderson was also a smart player who recognized the need for greater efficiency in his overall game. The following year he added another 108 thefts while slicing his caught-stealing total by more than one-half.

Traded to the New York Yankees after the 1984 season, Henderson dazzled the Big Apple fans in 1985 by batting .314 with 24 home runs, 80 stolen bases and an incredible 146 runs scored.

He was limited to just 95 games by a hamstring injury in 1987, and as such had his streak of seven consecutive stolen-base crowns snapped.

But he did return to set a team record with 93 steals in 1988.

Following a lackluster first half of the 1989 season, Henderson was reignited by a trade that returned him to Oakland, where he helped bring the A’s to the World Series, which they won in a four-game sweep over the San Francisco Giants.

 

 

The following season Henderson earned AL MVP honors, again helping bring the A’s to the World Series.

On May 1, 1991 Henderson achieved the inevitable when he surpassed Brock’s all-time record with career stolen base No. 939. True to form, at the end of a speech to commemorate the moment, he announced,

“Today I am the greatest!”

 

Henderson went on to play for the Blue Jays,  New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and Padres for a second time.

Unsigned by the start of 2003 season, he kept playing at any level he could and joined the Newark Bears of the Independent Atlantic League, before finishing the season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He finished his career as baseball’s all-time leader in stolen bases (1,406), runs scored (2,295), and walks (2,190) and was the 25th player to reach 3,000 hits.

In his post-baseball playing career, Henderson still stayed linked to the game by joining the Mets organization as a special instructor in 2006 and became the team’s first base coach in 2007.

In 2009, Henderson was elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He was named on 95 percent of the ballots, on of the highest percentages of all-time.

In recent years, the baseball great served as a roving instructor in the A’s organization, imparting his hitting and baserunning advice to minor league players.

Kenny Lofton Was A Kappa Before He Became An MLB Star

Kenny Lofton Was A Kappa Before He Became An MLB Star

By Devon POV Mason| Contributor 

Before his 17-year career as a six-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and five-time stolen base champion, Kenny Lofton crossed through the Delta Omicron Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi as a college student at the University of Arizona in 1987.

 

 

With 622 base swipes, Lofton was one of baseball’s most recognized names in the ’90s, most remembered for his peak years with the Cleveland Indians (who he played with on three different occasions).

 

 

He also played for the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Texas Rangers during his nomadic career.

 

 

He also played in an era where Black baseball stars were dynamic, and plentiful, multi-faceted and very marketable, with many exhibiting speed and athletics that enhanced their overall game and captivated the fans — even when homers weren’t being hit.

 

 

Lofton was born and raised in East Chicago, Indiana. The multi-talented athlete was an all-state basketball player and pitcher/center fielder at Washington High School.

He accepted a basketball scholarship to attend the University of Arizona, where he played on a team with current Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and even made it to the the1988 Final Four.

In his junior year of college, the itch to once again play baseball became too much shy away from so he walked-on to the baseball team at Zona. Although he only played five games he was recognized by scouts and was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 17th round of the 1988 MLB draft. Lofton then went on to play in the minor leagues after graduating with a degree in studio production. He made his MLB debut with the Astros in 1991.

Lofton is one of two men to play in a World Series and NCAA Final Four (1988).

 

 

During his career, Lofton was arguably the second-best leadoff hitter in the game behind the electrifying Rickey Henderson. He retired just eight hits shy of being a .300 hitter over his 17-year career. His 68.4 WAR ranks ninth among centerfielders all-time. Six of the eight players ahead of him are enshrined in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The two not in are Mike Trout and Carlos Beltran.

The fleet-footed Lofton compiled a .299 batting average with 130 home runs, 116 triples, 1,528 runs scored in 2,103 games played. He was a tremendous defensive centerfielder with elite range.

Lofton currently runs a film production company called Film Pool Inc. There are few players of his ilk in the history of the game.

Rickey Henderson Left Ty Cobb In The Dust 31 Years Ago

Andre “The Hawk” Dawson’s Bat Had Deadly Drip | He’s The Gold Standard For HBCU Baseballers

By Devon POV Mason| Contributor 

 

Andre “The Hawk” Dawson AKA “Awesome Dawson” finished his inaugural MLB season by winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1977.

He followed that up with a solid second season in 1978 where he hit 25 home runs and stole 28 bases.

Dawson was one of the first players to receive a Topps trading card contract in 1979, and he finished that season in the NL top ten in total bases, runs batted in, leading to a career that saw “The Hawk” tally more than 400 homers and 1500 runs batted in, on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

 

 

Dawson played the first seven seasons of the 1980s with the expansion Expos and the final three of the decade with the Chicago Cubs, who were in rebuild mode and bottom feeders in the league.

The lone bright spot in Chicago was Dawson, whose prolific bat gave Cubs fans a reason to pile into the confines of Wrigley Field back when they only had day games.

By the end of the decade, he had tallied 290 homers, 895 RBI and .128 OPS+. The decade saw him earn Gold Glove Awards, 6 All-Star Appearances, four Silver Sluggers, and an MVP Award. making Dawson easily one of the most productive hitters and multi-tooled standouts of the 1980s.

 

 

Before the start of the 1982 season, Andre Dawson received his check from the Major League Baseball Players Association for the sum of $2,527.

At the time a nice piece of change for the then 27-year old outfielder. The check had the stamped signature of Marvin Miller, who happened to be the Executive Director of the MLBPA.

With Dawson’s signature on the reverse side, Dawson took his check to the bank and requested $1,300.00 in cash and a cashier’s check for the remaining balance.

“The Hawk” used this method of money management for the rest of his MLB career.

That 1982 season for Dawson was one to remember as he was an All-Star, and Gold Glove winner. In his 11 seasons in Montreal, Dawson totaled 225 homers and 838 RBIs for the Expos. His peak years were 1980-83.

In those four seasons, he amassed a (29 WAR – Wins Above Replacement). His OPS+ was an astounding 140, putting him on the fast track to Cooperstown.

 

 

“The Hawk” had a long productive career. He hit 20 or more homers in 13 seasons and 30 or more in three seasons.

His career-high of 49 came in 1987, his MVP year. As his 21-year career came to a close, Dawson climbed the all-time lists as an unforgettable Black Knight of baseball.

Seven seasons after what was thought to be his peak performance, an old Dawson with football knees, was still at it. On June 25, 1994, as the Red Sox DH, he went out and had a career day amassing 10 total bases. He went (4-7) with two homers, two doubles and 6 RBI.

The second moonshot gave him 426 in his career,  tying him with the sweet-swinging Hall of Famer and legendary MLBbro, Billy Williams.

He hit his 400th homer in April of 1993.

 

 

Known for his poise and quiet class, Dawson was beloved by teammates in Montreal, Chicago, Boston and Florida.

In retirement “The Hawk” has been a well-respected longtime funeral director in Florida.

MLB has also named its annual HBCU baseball showcase the “Andre Dawson Classic” after the soul patroller who played for Florida A&M University. Formerly known as the “Urban Invitational”, this annual collegiate baseball tournament was launched in 2008 by MLB to highlight Historically Black Colleges and Universities and their programs.

READ MORE: Black History Month In Focus: Andre Dawson Classic Showcases HBCU Talent

Dawson is one of only two HBCU Baseball alumni enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, joining Lou Brock, an alumnus of Southern University.