Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Putting the M in Hall of Fame

I realize I'm nearly a week behind in getting to this, plus others have covered it to various extents, but this wouldn't be a Michigan sports collecting blog without a post celebrating Barry Larkin's much-deserved enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Other things got in the way of covering the event, but yesterday's federal holiday gave me an extra day to give this major event its due before my COMC package, if not more, arrives today.  So this post will celebrate all things Barry Larkin and his Hall of Fame achievement.
Barry is the first Wolverine player to enter the Hall since former Tiger Charlie Gehringer (who played for Michigan in 1923) in 1949, and third overall thanks to George Sisler's (1913-1915) induction in 1939.  It took three years for the voters to get their heads out of their asses, but 86.4% of the vote was more than enough to grant him his rightful place in MLB history.  So what did he do to merit consideration, and ultimately, acceptance?
Try some of these stats, honors and accolades on for size:
  • 19 seasons, 2180 games--all with the Reds
  • A career slash of .295/.371/.444
  • 198 career HR and 379 SB (87th all-time)
  • 1990 World Series champion (hit .353 with a .950 OPS)
  • 1995 NL MVP
  • 14-time All-Star including two starts
  • Nine-time NL SS Silver Slugger winner
  • Three Gold Gloves (1994-1996) despite playing most of his career at the same time as Ozzie Smith
  • 68.9 career WAR, good for 90th all-time 
All that paints a picture of an elite, well-rounded player who unquestionably belongs in the Hall.  So what about his Michigan legacy?
This SI.com slideshow points out a fact that's not necessarily widely known:  Barry was a two-sport star who was drafted by Cincinnati right out of high school in 1982, but he opted to attend Michigan...on a football scholarship for legendary coach Bo Schembechler as a DB.  He then found out he'd be redshirting, focused on baseball, and the rest is history.  Larkin played three years for Michigan (1983-85) and was then drafted in the first round, again by the Reds.

But while he was at Michigan, he was a part of some excellent teams, the first two of which made it to consecutive College World Series--no easy feat for a cold-weather school--plus Big Ten titles.  Besides that, he was an All-American and even played for the 1984 Olympic team.  Larkin finished his Michigan career as one of the program's greatest players, and his #16 was retired in 2010, during a game against Ohio State, a program in his home state that ignored him when it came to recruiting.

At a school more renowned for its football program, after which hockey and basketball fall a likely second and third, the baseball team doesn't tend to get much notice.  It's had some success over the years, winning two titles and producing a respectable number of quality MLB players, but in a northern state like Michigan, college baseball goes largely ignored.  Fortunately, Larkin's success may spur a bit more interest in a team that's proved it's deserved it more often than not recently.  That success he carried all the way to the Major Leagues, and ultimately the Hall of Fame, is just the latest feather in the cap of one of the truly great Michigan Men.


  1. He definitely belongs there. I watched him a lot growing up when he played the Cubs since they were the only games on in the 80's. I remember him as a superstar back then.

    1. He really was, and I think some people forget that because of bigger stars at the position such as Ripken, then more recently A-Rod, Jeter, Hanley Ramirez, et al. It says a lot that his #1 baseball-reference comparison is another excellent, underappreciated player in Alan Trammell.