Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today we look back on the career of Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.Barry Larkin was a fixture on the Reds for nearly
Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today we look back on the career of Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.
Barry Larkin was a fixture on the Reds for nearly two decades, starring at shortstop for much of his 19 seasons in the big leagues from 1986-2004. Throughout his career, Larkin earned 12 All-Star appearances, a National League Most Valuable Player Award, nine Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves.
The No. 4 overall Draft pick in 1985, Larkin joined the professional ranks after a productive collegiate career at Michigan. He was an All-American and a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year and led the school to three Big Ten titles and two College World Series appearances.
Larkin enjoyed a quick rise through the Reds' Minor League system, debuting on Aug. 13 against the Giants in Cincinnati. He played his first full season in 1987, then broke out in '88, batting .296 with 12 homers and 40 stolen bases en route to his first All-Star appearance. He struck out just 24 times in 588 at-bats and won his first Silver Slugger Award that season.
In 1990, Larkin helped lead the Reds to their first postseason appearance in more than a decade. He hit .353 in the World Series as Cincinnati swept the A's for the franchise's fifth championship. The Reds would make the playoffs just once more during Larkin's career, but they lost to the eventual champion Braves in the 1995 NL Championship Series.
In the middle of the decade, Larkin recorded some of the best statistical seasons of his career. From '94-96, he won NL Most Valuable Player ('95), three Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. He also set career-high marks for home runs (33), RBIs (89) and stolen bases (51). With 33 home runs and 36 steals in '96, Larkin became one of three Reds players to join the 30-30 club (along with Eric Davis in '87 and Brandon Phillips in '07).
Larkin was also honored off the field during that stretch. He took home the '93 Roberto Clemente Award -- given annually to the player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field -- and won the '94 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, which is presented to the big leaguer who best exemplifies the giving character of Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig.
Larkin suffered a number of injuries and his production dipped in the later years of his career, but he went out on a high note, making his 12th All-Star Game in his final big league season in 2004. He retired with a .295 career average, 2,340 hits, 198 home runs, 441 doubles, 960 RBIs and 379 stolen bases. He hit 30-plus doubles six times and stole 30 or more bases five times.
The former Reds star reached Cooperstown in his third year of Hall of Fame eligibility, appearing on 86.4 percent of ballots in 2012, the same year the Reds retired his No. 11 at Great American Ball Park.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.