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Large crowd expected when Larkin, Santo inducted

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- All the preparations and the long wait is over. Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo, the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will be inducted on Sunday behind the Clark Sports Center in front of an anticipated large and enthusiastic crowd decked in Cincinnati red and Cubbie blue.

The induction ceremony is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET with live coverage starting on MLB Network and simulcast on an hour earlier.

"I'm really excited about this. The last couple of days have been great," Larkin said on Saturday during his final media conference before the big event. "We've spent a lot of time with many of the Hall of Famers, who made me feel welcome here. We're very comfortable. ... It's special to see all the Cincinnati red. It's special to see all the Chicago Cubs blue, too.

"Cincinnati-Chicago, that's a rivalry that's great. Some of the nicest weekends I had as a ballplayer were those weekend series against Chicago up there as well as in Cincinnati. As far as this being everything I expected? I think it's a little more."

Larkin joined the Class of 2012 on Jan. 9 as the sole electee this year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. To gain admittance any electee has to 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, garnered 86.4 percent.

Jack Morris finished second with 66.7 percent and Jeff Bagwell wasn't far behind at third with 56 percent. Both have a good shot at being elected to the Class of 2013 on a controversial ballot that will include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling.

Larkin is joining the legendary Cubs third baseman, who was elected posthumously to the Hall last December by the Golden Era Committee. Santo's widow Vicki will represent is expected to give his acceptance speech on Sunday.

She's joined here by Santo's three children from his first marriage: Ron Santo Jr., 52, who is the spitting image of his father and a sports marketer living in Chicago; Jeff Santo, 48, and a filmmaker who produced a documentary about his dad that was updated and shown Saturday on MLB Network, and Linda Santo-Brown, who is in ad sales for Arizona Sports Radio and the mother of Santo's only two grandchildren, both boys. Jeff and Linda live in the Phoenix area.

"We are embracing this moment and so grateful to everyone: the Hall of Fame, the Chicago Cubs and all the fans who came to Cooperstown," Linda said on Saturday during a media conference attended by all three adult children. "Everyone has been so inviting. We're able to experience a little bit of what my dad would have. And it's a remarkable feeling. I feel that in some way he's experiencing it through us. That's what gives us true satisfaction."

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 received 15 of the 16 votes.

Santo is the fourth member of his Cubs team of the 1960s and 1970s to enter the Hall, joining shortstop Ernie Banks, outfielder Billy Williams and pitcher Ferguson Jenkins.

Santo, a nine-time NL All-Star, who batted .277 with 342 homers and 1,331 RBIs in his 15-year-career, died from the complications of bladder cancer on Dec. 3, 2010. A diabetic, who suffered through multiple leg amputations, Santo was 70. He played his first 14 years with the Cubs and finished his career in 1974 with one season for the rival White Sox, but may be even better known for his tenure in the Cubs broadcasting booth.

As far as the writers' ballot is concerned, BBWAA members with at least 10 consecutive years of covering Major League Baseball can place as many as 10 names on it. Five years after retirement, a player can remain on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years provided that he receives at least 5 percent of the vote each year. There are now 207 players in the Hall, 112 elected by the BBWAA.

Larkin was thrilled by his inclusion as the 11th shortstop voted in by the BBWAA, during his third year on the ballot. He's the first Red since inductees from the big Reds machine: catcher Johnny Bench, second baseman Joe Morgan and outfielder Tony Perez. All three are in attendance as well as Santo's Hall of Fame Cubs teammates.

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 1995. His .295 lifetime batting average compares well with the two players most recently elected by the BBWAA at his position. He finished in 2004, 33 points higher than 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 2007, hit .277 as a shortstop, the position he played for most of his stellar 21-year career with the Orioles.

On Saturday, Larkin previewed his speech, which he has been working on for months.

"I'm a pretty transparent person," Larkin said. "Kind of what you see is what you get. I think I've been very vocal about my keys to success as a player. What those are is what I'll speak about in my speech. To give you a little preview: It's the perspective that guys gave me when I got to the big leagues, the tone that they set, the work acumen that I followed, the work ethic that they talked about, the requirements to be a professional and how to handle success or failure.

"All those things my mother and father instilled in me as a young boy. But they were reinforced by the players on the team. Not only did they help me on the field to be a better player, but they helped me off the field to be a better person."

On Sunday, he and the late Santo will have their place in the Cooperstown sun.