Longtime Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame today. Larkin, a Cincinnati native, spent all nineteen seasons with the Reds, hitting .295/.371/.444 with 2340 hits and 198 home runs in his career. He was a twelve-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, and the 1995 National League Most Valuable Players.
All great credentials I'm sure, but what really put him over the top was his complete destruction of the Royals in clutch situations. What everyone remembers about Barry Larkin was how he owned Kansas City. In five games against KC, he went 14-for-23, with a home run, two triples, two steals and five RBI, good for an OPS of 1.522, easily the best of his career against any one opponent.
Larkin would first face the Royals on June 22, 1998. Larkin would go 3-4 with three singles, but former first round pick Jim Pittsley would shut down the Reds in a 3-0 Royals victory. Larkin was just getting started. The next night he went 3-5 with two triples and an RBI, but again the Royals - known for their pitching - had Pat Rapp shut down Cincy for a 6-3 victory.
Larkin stewed for an entire off-season, but in 1999, when he saw the Royals on the schedule again, he was ready. Although he would go just 1-5 in their first matchup, his leadership brought the Reds to a 9-4 victory.
In the second game of that doubleheader, Larkin stepped up to the plate in the top of the tenth in a 3-3 game to face Royals closer Jeff Montgomery. What happened next is an image that is etched into the minds of every fan. Larkin deposited a Montgomery fastball over the fence for a three-run home run, his third hit of the game. Reds fans can still remember the immortal call of Reds announcer Marty Brennamen that night.
"The pitch....Larkin drives it deep to left! The Reds have finally vanquished the Royals! Ding-dong, the wicked witch is dead!"
Demoralized, the Royals would drop the final game of the series 14-3. Larkin collected four hits and was named Series MVP.
Here's to you Barry. While your name may still be hated around these parts, dammit, we respect you. You faced the best and rose to the challenge.