After five years without a shortstop making it into the hall of fame, Barry Larkin made into the hall of fame on his third year of eligibility. Ron Santo, retired since 1974 and nearly two years since he passed away, was voted in by the Veterans Committee, making up the two-man 2012 Hall of Fame class.
Larkin cried as his daughter sang the national anthem in Cooperstown, New York, later began the usual round of thank you’s to everyone involved in his career. The most interesting tale worthy or re-telling was how being red-shirted as a Freshman for the Michigan Wolverines College Football team turned him into a 12-time all-star with the Cincinnati Reds.
Larkin accepted a scholarship to play under Bo Schembechler for Michigan, but the decision to sit him during his Freshman year turned out very well for Larkin, born and raised in Cincinnati.
He red-shirted me my freshman year and told me that he was going to allow me just to play baseball. Occasionally, I’d call him while I was playing in the big leagues and told him that was the best decision he made as a football coach. He didn’t like that too much.
Larkin began a glorious baseball career in 1986, needing only 41 games to impress and finish high in the voting for NL rookie of the year. In 1988 he made his first All-Star game, the first of 12 appearances, the last of them in 2004. Larkin won the World Series with the Reds in 1990, when he was the best hitting shortstop in the Majors, winning nine Silver Slugger awards and finishing his career hitting .295 to go with his 2340 hits, 198 home runs and 960 RBIs.
Larkins, regarded by many as one of the top 5 shortstops in the history of baseball won the NL MVP in 1995, hitting .319, one of his nine season of hitting .300 during his 19 year career. He was also a three-time Gold Glove winner (1994-1996). He got mostly emotional when he talked about his heroes and inspiration while playing for the Reds and before – Pete Rose and Dave Concepcion, who Larkin took over for in time.
I wouldn’t be in the big leagues if it weren’t for Pete. And Dave Concepcion, understanding that I was gunning for his job, understanding that I was from Cincinnati, he spent countless hours with me preparing me for the game. I idolized Davey Concepcion as a kid. Thank you, my idol. My inclusion in the Hall of Fame is the ultimate validation. I want to thank you all for helping me along the way.
Unlike Larkin, Ron Santo wasn’t there to give out his thank yous and shed a few tears of emotion. Santo passed away in 2010 at the age of 70 after complications of his bladder cancer and diabetes condition. Santo hid his diabetic condition through most of his career, playing for the Chicago Cubs between 1960 and 1973, and then for the Chicago White Sox in 1974.
Santo, a third baseman through most of his career, made the All-Star game nine times between 1963 and 1973, finishing his career batting .277 to go along with his 2254 hits, 342 home runs and 1331 RBIs. He led the league in walks four times during his career and in On Base Percentage twice. He won five consecutive Gold Glove awards to complete the list of accolades (1964-1968).
His wife, Vicki Santo, spoke on his behalf – It just feels right, a perfect ending to a remarkable journey. Ron left an awful hole for many of us today. This is not a sad day. This is a great day. I’m certain that Ronnie is celebrating right now. Santo, as a broadcaster for 20 years, never hid the fact that he’s a Cubs fan for life, endearing him among Cubs fans who never got to see him play.
I want you to know that he loved you so much, and he would be grateful that you came here to share this with him. He fought the good fight, and though he’s no longer here we need to find a cure. He felt he had been put here for that reason. He believed in his journey. He believed in his cause. We can’t let him down.