Barry Larkin career highlights

The news came down earlier today. As predicted here at THT, Barry Larkin is the newest member of the Hall of Fame.

In honor of that grand honor, it’s only fitting to spend some time looking back at the career that got him into Cooperstown. The list below contains many of Larkin’s most memorable moments.

In it are his best (and sometimes worst) moments, the best and most important games he played in, and his key postseason events. Also, to provide some color, some of the stranger and more interesting games he was on hand for, as well as some noteworthy accomplishments his teammates or opponents had in games in which Larkin played.

If Cooperstown’s calling, it’s no fluke.

With that said, here they are:

Career highlights

Aug. 13, 1986: Larkin makes his big league debut. He appears in the top of the fifth inning as a pinch hitter. He grounds out to short but drives in a run in the process. It’s the beginning of a nice comeback. Cincy was down 5-0 to the Giants when Larkin stepped to the plate but ended up winning, 8-6. As it happens, the pitcher Larkin faces is also a rookie, in fact, a rookie whose career will last longer than Larkin’s. It’s a young Terry Mulholland on the mound.

Aug. 17, 1986: Out with the old and in with the new. Pete Rose makes his final appearance in a major league game, striking out as a late-game pinch hitter in a loss to the Padres. This game is also Larkin’s first full game at shortstop for the Reds. Oh, and he belts the first of his 198 career home runs in the game, as well.

Sept. 2, 1986: Larkin plays second base for the last time. It’s only the third time he’s been slotted in that position, but from here on out Larkin will play only shortstop. He goes 2-for-4 with a triple. He’s allowing normal second baseman Ron Oester to take the day off.

Sept. 10, 1986: In just the 25th game of his career, Larkin sets a personal best of the rest of his career by reaching base six times. He’s 4-for-4 with a pair of walks. He scores twice and drives in three as Cincinnati stomps San Francisco, 14-2.

April 17, 1988: Larkin leads off the game with a home run, one of nine times he ever does it. This one is especially notable because it comes off Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. It’s the only leadoff homer Ryan allows after 1975. Two days later, Larkin swats another leadoff home run. He’ll get another in early May and have four on the season.

June 3, 1988: The Reds lose, 15-3, to the Dodgers in a record-setting game. The Dodgers collect 22 hits, but none for extra bases. It’s the grandest singles-only hit-fest by any team in the lively ball era. Larking goes 2-for-5 for the Reds. Fittingly, both hits are singles.

July 6, 1988: Larkin gets hit by a pitch twice in one game. The same thing happened to him just 15 days earlier, but it never happens to him again.

Sept. 10, 1988: Orel Hershiser sets a record in late 1988 by tossing 59 consecutive scoreless innings, but Larkin nearly ends the streak at 16 innings in this game. In the third inning, Larkin hits a two-out single with none on. He advances to second when Chris Sabo singles and then makes it to third when Hershiser walks Kal Daniels. Hershiser hunkers down with the bases loaded and fans Eric Davis.

Four innings later, Larkin has another chance to end Hershiser’s stretch. He comes to the plate with a runner on third and two outs but strikes out on four pitches.

Sept. 16, 1988: Tom Browning becomes one of the few men in baseball history to pitch a perfect game, defeating the Dodgers, 1-0. It’s actually a double no-hitter duel between Browning and LA’s Tim Belcher until Larkin doubles with two outs in the sixth. A few minutes later, Larkin scores on a Chris Sabo single (and an error by Dodger third baseman Jeff Hamilton). On defense, Larkin cleanly fields four grounders hit to him.

April 23, 1989: Larkin’s longest career hitting streak peaks at 23 games. In that stretch, he’s 34-for-89 with four doubles and a pair of homers. His AVG/OBP/SLG line: .382/.394/.494.

July 4, 1989: On Independence Day, Reds pitcher Tom Browning nearly becomes the first pitcher to toss a pair of perfect games. He retires the first 24 batters he faces before allowing a pair of hits and a run. Cincinnati defeats the Phillies, 2-1. Barry Larkin goes 1-for-4 with a single.

June 8, 1990: It’s one of the best pitchers duels Larkin ever plays in. Browning and Mike Scott go at it, and after nine innings it’s tied, 0-0. Scott has done better, fanning 14 while allowing one hit, but in the 10th his magic runs out. Larkin hits a one-out single off Scott and, after a walk, scores on another single. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, reliever Randy Myers doesn’t have it, and he allows a three-run homer for a 3-1 loss.

Sept. 13, 1990: With no outs in the bottom of the ninth, Larkin hits a walk-off home run against Houston. His solo shot turns a 5-5 tie into a 6-5 Cincinnati win.

Oct. 4, 1990: NLCS Game One: The surprising Cincinnati Reds have won the NL West and today square off against the Pirates to determine the pennant. Larkin goes 0-for-2 in his first postseason game but draws a pair of walks and scores a run. The Pirates, however, win, 4-3.

Oct. 5, 1990: NLCS Game Two: The Reds even the series one game apiece with a 2-1 win, and Larkin plays a key role. He begins the game with a walk then steals second and later comes home to score the game’s first run. In the fifth, he connects for his first postseason hit and though he’s later forced at second, he begins a rally that results in the second Cincinnati run of the game.

Oct. 10, 1990: NLCS Game Five: A win gives the Reds the pennant, and Larkin again gets things started off on the right note. He leads off with a double and a little later comes around to score for an early 1-0 Reds lead. However, Pittsburgh rallies to win, 3-2, forcing a sixth game.

Oct. 12, 1990: NLCS Game Six: With the Reds up three games to two, Cincinnati leadoff hitter Larkin begins the first with a single, steals second and later scores for an early 1-0 lead. It proves to be the difference, as the Reds win, 2-1, to clinch the pennant. Larkin will go to the World Series to face the heavily favored Oakland A’s.

Oct. 16, 1990: World Series Game One: Larkin draws a walk and scores a run, as the Reds rough up the AL champion A’s, 7-0, to win the first game of the series.

Oct. 17, 1990: World Series Game Two: The A’s take a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but in the bottom half of the frame, Larkin leads things off with a ground-rule double. He scores the game-tying run a few minutes later on a Billy Hatcher two-bagger. Larkin adds another pair of singles, but is stranded in scoring positions both times. However, the Reds win in 10 innings, 5-4, to take a commanding two-games-to-none lead in the series.

Oct. 19, 1990: World Series Game Three: A massive October upset seems imminent as the Reds torch the A’s, 8-3, in a game that isn’t as close as its score. Larkin continues his fine October, getting a single and an RBI triple on the day.

Oct. 20, 1990: World Series Game Four: Larkin and the Reds have done it, sweeping the A’s to become world champs. Yet again, Larkin is a key contributor. With the A’s up 1-0, he leads off the top of the eighth with a single. He later scores as the Reds rally with two runs that inning for a 2-1 final score.

April 28, 1991: Larkin goes 1-for-4 and scores a run as the Reds top the Cubs, but the story on the day is reliever Rob Dibble. Upset over something, Dibble throws the ball into the stands from the mound and hits a teacher named Meg Porter. Dibble apologizes but receives a three-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.

June 15, 1991: In just the second big league appearance of his career, Phillies starting pitcher Andy Ashby makes history by becoming one of the few pitchers in baseball history to strike out the side on just nine pitches. It comes in the fourth inning, just one frame after Larkin belts a two-run homer off him. That proves to be the difference, as Cincinnati wins, 3-1.

June 28, 1991: Larkin ties a big league record during what might be the greatest game of his career. One game after Larkin smashes a pair of homers, Larkin belts three more today, giving him five long balls over two games, and that ties a record. He also gets six RBIs in one game as the Reds top the Astros, 8-5.

Aug. 30, 1991: For the second time, a pitcher strikes out the Cincinnati side on nine pitches. They are the only team in baseball to endure this twice in one season. David Cone for the Mets does it in the fifth inning. In the sixth inning, Larkin scores a run, but the Reds lose, 3-2.

Sept. 17, 1992: Larkin goes 1-for-4 in Cincinnati’s 3-2 win over the Dodgers, but that’s not the important part. The memorable moment comes after the game, when manager Lou Piniella and reliever Rob Dibble get in a fight in the clubhouse in front of all the Reds.

June 18, 1993: Larkin achieves a career milestone by collecting his 1,000th career hit, and he does it with flair. The milestone comes on a game-winning walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the tenth for a 4-3 Reds win over the Dodgers. Earlier in the game, Larkin struck out against a young Dodger reliever named Pedro Martinez.

July 7, 1993: Larkin suffers one of his worst days ever, going 0-for-4 with a trio of GIDPs. Then again, he gets an RBI sacrifice fly in a game the Reds win by one, 4-3, over the Cubs. Larkin’s teammate Tom Browning has a memorable view of the day’s festivities. Bored in the bullpen, Browning leaves Chicago’s Wrigley Field to watch the game on a rooftop from across the street.

July 13, 1993: It takes a heckuva player to displace a perennial All-Star and first-ballot Hall of Famer from the starting lineup of the All-Star game, and Larkin has done just that. For the last ten straight years, baseball fans had voted Ozzie Smith to start for the All-Star game for the NL, but that streak ends tonight. As the league’s first-string shortstop, Larkin goes 0-for-2 with an RBI sacrifice fly before leaving. (As it happens, Smith’s run as NL shortstop is bookended by Reds. Cincinnati’s Dave Concepcion started the game before Smith’s reign began).

Aug. 28, 1995: Larkin racks up another career milestones, hitting his 100th career home run. The solo shot adds an insurance run for the Reds in their 5-2 win over the Cardinals.

Sept. 5, 1995: Larkin goes 1-for-4 as Houston easily beats the Reds, 10-1, but the big news is the bad blood and fighting. Umps eject Houston’s Pat Borders and Cincinnati’s Ron Gant in the sixth inning. In the bottom of the seventh, Houston pitcher Xavier Hernandez begins the frame by plunking Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell on back-to-back pitches, earning his ejection. In the top of the eighth, Houston pitcher Doug Drabek returns the favor, hitting Benito Santiago on the first pitch, getting his ejection. All four ejected players plus both managers earn suspensions.

Sept. 28, 1995: Well, this is different. In the penultimate game of his 703-appearance career, veteran Expos reliever Greg Harris decides to do something original. Pitching in the ninth inning with the Reds up by a half-dozen, Harris decides to become a switch-pitcher, tossing the ball with his right had to two batters and as a southpaw to two others. Larkin is not among the batters Harris faces, but he went 1-for-4 on the day.

Oct. 3, 1995: NLDS Game One: In his first postseason game in five years, Larkin picks up where he left off with his terrific play from the 1990 World Series. Against the Dodgers, he goes 2-for-4 with a walk, two stolen bases, and a run as the Reds cruise to a 7-2 victory.

Oct. 4, 1995: NLDS Game Two: The Reds win by one run, 5-4, and a Larkin eighth-inning RBI single provides the difference. His shot puts the Reds ahead for a good in a game that was tied until that moment.

Oct. 6, 1995: NLDS Game Three: Larkin has another great day with a pair of singles and a pair of steals as Cincinnati routs the Dodgers, 10-1, to complete their NLDS sweep.

Oct. 10, 1995: NLCS Game One: Larkin continues to be a force in the postseason with a single, double, and run for the Reds against the Braves. Unfortunately, his run is the only one Cincinnati gets, and they lose, 2-1, in 10 innings.

Oct. 11, 1995: NLCS Game Two: Yet again, Larkin plays great in the postseason. This time he gets two singles, a double and a stolen base. However, the team again falls in extra innings to the Braves.

Oct. 13, 1995: NLCS Game Three: Larkin has an off day, going 1-for-5. Even his hit is nullified, as he’s caught stealing. The rest of the Reds also have trouble, and they fall 5-2 to the Braves.

Oct. 14, 1995: NLCS Game Four: The Braves complete the sweep with a 5-0 win. The only time a Red even makes it to third base comes in the fourth inning when Larkin does it. He has a walk and single, but the Reds lose, and this will be his last postseason game.

May 28, 1996: Larkin hits his only career inside-the-park home run. It’s a solo shot against Chris Hammond of Florida. Despite that, the Marlins win easily, 6-2.

July 29, 1996: Oops. In the second inning of a 2-1 loss to the Astros, Larkin’s goggle-clad teammate Chris Sabo has his batter shatter in a pop up, and a bunch of cork spills out. Sabo is ejected for his illegal (and ineffectual) doctoring of his bat. Larkin doubles and scores Cincinnati’s only run in the loss.

Sept. 18, 1996: According to WPA, Barry Larkin endures the worst game of his career: a –0.429 total. He goes 0-for-6 with two double plays grounded into and a strikeout. Also, he hits into a fielder’s choice that causes a runner to get tossed at the plate. Pittsburgh wins, 5-3.

Sept. 24, 1996: Larkin is part of an impressive power display by the Reds. In the eighth inning, Eddie Taubensee, Reggie Sanders, Jeff Branson, and Larkin hit home runs in a seven-run frame. The homers launch the Reds to a 9-5 win over the Rockies (but the game took place at the normal altitude of Cincinnati, not the rarified air of Colorado).

June 23, 1998: Larkin, at 34 years of age, legs out two triples in one game. He’ll end the year with 10 triples, the only time he ever gets more than six in one season.

Sept. 27, 1998: The Reds end the season on a familial note. In the campaign’s last game, Cincinnati skipper Jack McKeon goes with an all-brother infield. Larkin plays short while kid brother Stephen Larkin mans first, and Aaron Boone plays third while brother Bret plays second. Three of these guys have legitimate big league careers, but it’s Stephen’s only game. The foursome goes 2-for-12, but Cincinnati wins anyway, 4-1.

May 7, 1999: Larkin experiences his best game as far as WPA is concerned. He goes 3-for-4 with a double, walk, and two RBIs in Cincinnati’s 3-2 win over the Cubs for a 0.833 WPA. His biggest blow is a game-ending, walk-off double off Rob Beck that scores two runs in the bottom of the ninth.

Aug. 16, 1999: Larkin has a terrific game during one of the odder moments in the 1990s Reds history. Larkin goes 2-for-2 with a trio of walks, but the attention focuses on new Reds pitcher Juan Guzman. In the game Guzman is cruising along, allowing only five hits and two runs through seven innings when he has to leave the game because his shoes are too small. He recently came to Cincinnati and has to pitch in shoes a size too small, and his feet start blistering. The bullpen holds on for an easy 9-2 win over the Pirates.

Oct. 4, 1999: The regular season ended with the Mets and Reds tied for the wild card with identical 96-66 records, so today they face off in a play-in game. Alas for Cincinnati, the Mets win handily, 5-0. Larkin goes 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.

June 24, 2000: Larkin has the only five-hit performance of his career, going 5-for-5 with two home runs, four runs, and four RBIs. With Larkin leading the way, the Reds trash the Padres, 11-5.

Aug. 21, 2000: Larkin reaches his latest career milestone, belting an RBI double in the fourth inning for his 2,000th career hit.

April 20, 2001: It’s taken 1,823 games and 7,712 plate appearances, but Larkin finally collects his first career grand slam when he goes deep against Al Leiter of the Mets in the second inning. It’s his 142nd time facing a pitcher with the bases loaded. It proves to be the difference as Cincinnati wins by four, 9-5.

May 8, 2001: It’s the best pitching performance Larkin ever faces. Randy Johnson strikes out 20 batters in nine innings. Normally, it would be a record-tying performance, but it falls through the cracks. Johnson fans 20 in nine innings, but the game goes into extra frames. Twenty would tie the nine-inning game record, but 21 is the record in extra frames. Larkin strikes out three times in three at-bats with a walk.

Aug. 2, 2002: In the space of 19 pitches, Cincinnati Reds catcher Jason LaRue allows three passed balls. That’s right, a knuckleball pitcher is on the mound (Jared Fernandez). Larkin goes 0-for-3 with a GIDP as the Reds lose.

March 31, 2003: The new year brings a new stadium for the Reds. Larkin missed last year’s final game in Riverfront Stadium, but he’s on hand for the inaugural game at the Great American Ballpark. In fact, he’s the first Red to come to the plate there, which results in a fly out. The game is a bad one, though, as the Reds lose 10-1 to the Pirates, and Larkin goes hitless.

May 6, 2003: For the second and last time in his career, Larkin swats a walk-off home run. This one turns a 5-4 Cardinals lead into a 6-5 Reds win with one out in the bottom of the ninth. As an added bonus, this is a pinch-hit home run for Larkin, one of only four pinch-hit home runs in his career.

July 28, 2004: It took Larkin 15 years to get his first grand slam, but it takes only three more seasons for his second. In the bottom of the fifth, he connects for a pinch-hit grand slam against the Cardinals. Despite Larkin’s big blow, the Reds can’t overcome an early seven-run deficit and lose, 11-10. In fact, that same topsy-turvy game provides us with Scott Rolen’s best game, as he goes 4-for-6 with two doubles and two homers.

Oct. 3, 2004: This is it, Barry’s Larkin’s last game. He draw and walk and then, in his last big league at-bat, grounds into a rally-killing double play. The Reds remove him from the game in the top of the fourth, assuredly to the loud cheers of the 30,854 fans attending the game in Cincinnati.

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Derek Ambrosino
Derek Ambrosino

Question for the community – do you Larkin’s enshrinement as a victory for the sabermetric community? How much of his election is due to the popularization of advanced stats?

Chris Jaffe
Chris Jaffe

Derek – speaking as a sample size of one, I don’t see it as a sabermetric victory.  He was a perennial All-Star and an MVP.  People knew how good he was.  And I don’t recall a push for him from sabermetric-types like I remember with Blyleven (or even Raines).

Larkin debuted over 50%.  That’s a sign he was going in no matter what.

Clint E.
Clint E.

Thanks for this Chris. Brings back a lot of memories of my childhood.