Red-letter day: Larkin elected to Hall of Fame

Cincinnati shortstop makes it on third try; Morris, Bagwell fall shy
By Barry M. Bloom / | 01/09/12 5:15 PM EST

NEW YORK -- The newest member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be the 22nd shortstop enshrined in the red-brick museum nestled on Main Street in downtown Cooperstown, N.Y.
Barry Larkin joined the Class of 2012 on Monday as the sole electee of the Baseball Writers' Association of America this year. To gain admittance, a player must receive at least 75 percent of the vote.
The 12-time National League All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner, who played his entire 19-year career for his hometown Cincinnati Reds, appeared on 86.4 percent of the ballots cast. Last year, Larkin finished third behind inductees Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven when his name appeared on 62.1 percent of the ballots cast. It was Larkin's third year on the ballot.

"I'm just incredibly, incredibly excited," said Larkin, whose name appeared on 495 of the 573 ballots. "This is wonderful. I'm just incredibly, incredibly moved by this whole experience and I'm so humbled. I'm so excited about being the newest member of the Hall."

Jack Morris finished second with 66.7 percent and Jeff Bagwell wasn't far behind at third with 56 percent. They were followed by Lee Smith (50.6), Tim Raines (48.7), Alan Trammell (36.8) and Edgar Martinez (36.5). Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams fared the best among newcomers on the ballot, appearing on 9.6 percent.
Larkin will be inducted into the Hall during this year's ceremonies on July 21-22 in Cooperstown, joining legendary Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, who was elected posthumously to the Hall last month by the Golden Era Committee. They will be inducted on July 22 behind the Clark Sports Center. Ford C. Frick Award winner Tim McCarver and J.G. Taylor Spink Award electee Bob Elliott will be honored in a separate ceremony on July 21 at Doubleday Field.
In December, the Golden Era Committee of 16 members considered 10 candidates, including eight players, who participated in the Major Leagues from 1947-72. Needing 12 votes to be elected, Santo -- who died on Dec. 3, 2010, from complications of diabetes and cancer -- received 15 of 16 votes.
Santo will be represented at the induction ceremony by his widow, Vicki, who plans to give the acceptance speech. Santo will be the fourth member of the Cubs team of the 1960s and '70s to enter the Hall, joining shortstop Ernie Banks, outfielder Billy Williams and pitcher Ferguson Jenkins.
As far as the writers are concerned, BBWAA members with at least 10 consecutive years of covering Major League Baseball can place as many as 10 names on their ballots. Eligible five years after retirement, a player can remain on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years provided that he receives at least five percent of the vote each year. Thirteen players didn't reach that five-percent plateau this year, including six who didn't receive a single vote. There are now 207 players in the Hall, 112 elected by the BBWAA.
Larkin said he was thrilled by his inclusion as the 11th shortstop voted in by the BBWAA. He had to fill a 12.9 percent gap this year to gain election, but instead gained overwhelming support by upping his total 22.3 percent.
That kind of acceleration is not unheard of. In the history of the BBWAA balloting, which goes back to the first class in 1936, 17 players have made a leap of at least 13 percent in a single year to get into the Hall.
"That was really surprising," Larkin said about the huge increase. "I don't know how things change, but obviously the voters were happy with everything. That 86 percent is a very high number, but I'm so thankful to everyone who voted. I want to thank all the baseball writers who voted for me."

Larkin was a nine-time Silver Slugger winner, a member of the Reds squad that swept the A's in the 1990 World Series and the NL Most Valuable Player in '95. His .295 lifetime batting average was 33 points higher than that of Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith, who was elected predominantly for his defense in 2002. Cal Ripken Jr., elected along with Padres right fielder Tony Gwynn on the first ballot for both men in '07, hit .277 as a shortstop, the position he played for most of his stellar 21-year career with the Orioles.
"For 19 years Barry represented the Cincinnati Reds and the game of baseball so well both on and off the field," Ripken said. "When I think of Barry, I think of a steady, smart and terrific all-around player both at shortstop and at the plate. 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 is the first Cincinnati player to earn inclusion in the Hall since the three members of the vaunted Big Red Machine that won consecutive World Series in 1975-76: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez. Perez was the last of the trio to be elected in 2000.
"I'm very happy Barry got in, Perez said. "Now he's with us, another guy in the family. I've seen him play and do great things for the Cincinnati Reds organization and the team. He was a great player, very deserving to belong in the Hall of Fame."
"Barry was the most complete shortstop in the National League during his era," said Eric Davis, a teammate from 1986-91 and '96. "He could do everything. His knowledge of the game was second to none, he took pride in being an all-around player and he did whatever it took to win a game. Barry was the most unselfish star player I ever played with. We would not have won the 1990 World Series without him. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."
Morris, who won the World Series with Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto and had 254 victories during his 18-year big league career, was a long shot. He needed to pick up 21.5 percent from his vote total in 2011 to make it this year. He moved up by 13.2 percent in his 13th year on the BBWAA ballot, but his momentum might be challenged in the star-studded, steroid-era ballots that eligible BBWAA voters will confront over the next four years. It should be noted that Gil Hodges is the only player to amass better than 60 percent of the vote from the BBWAA and ultimately fail to make the Hall.
Bagwell, his career with the Astros cut short because of a shoulder injury, hit 449 home runs and hit .297 in 15 seasons. Though he also played under the shadow of steroid use in baseball, there has been no evidence that he ever used performance-enhancing drugs, and he has denied doing so. Bagwell was NL Rookie of the Year in 1991 and Most Valuable Player in '94. He received 41.7 percent of the vote in 2011.
In 2013 alone, a controversial ballot will include, for the first time, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling, along with other notable returnees such as Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire.
Bonds, the all-time leader with 762 home runs, and Clemens, a 354-game winner, are in the midst of court cases, charged with lying in legal testimony about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds was found guilty on one count of obstruction of justice and has appealed his sentence. The Clemens trial is set to begin anew this spring. Palmeiro was suspended in 2005 for testing positive for a banned substance, and McGwire admitted in '10 that he used steroids during his playing career.
McGwire, who appeared on 19.8 percent of the ballots a year ago, slipped slightly, to 19.5. Palmeiro, who was included on 11 percent of the ballots in 2011, got 12.6 percent this year. Palmeiro is one of only four players in MLB history to amass as many as 500 homers and 3,000 hits in his career. The others are Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.