“I mean really different,” Larkin said of Wells, obtained from the Detroit Tigers at the trade deadline.
How ’bout an example?
“You know pitchers ask a catcher to flash multiple signs?” Larkin asked.
Sure, everyone does it with a man on second.
“He does it when the lead-off hitter is up,” Larkin said.
As boring, post-season work-out days go, that may qualify as a Hall of Fame story.
And Monday afternoon Larkin received a phone call from Jack O’Connell, secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers of America Association, to tell him he was the lone player elected to Cooperstown in July.
“It became more tangible for me last year when I saw Robbie Alomar inducted, I thought Robbie was the best of the best,” Larkin told ESPN. “I saw Robbie when I was in Puerto Rico and I thought: ‘You know what, I know this guy, competed against this guy, am friends with this guy, he’s on my cell phone and he’s a Hall of Famer.’”
Larkin was named on 86.4% of the ballots, after receiving 62.1% a year ago. The last position player to achieve 60% or more of the vote in his first or second year on the ballot and not get elected the next year was Roy Campanella of the Brooklyn Dodgers 45 years ago, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Campanella was elected in his seventh year.
The single-year percentage increase to gain election by Larkin was the most since 1948, when New York Yankees pitcher Herb Pennock was elected with 77.7%, a year after finishing with 53.4%.
Larkin, signed by Gene Bennett, was surprised at the huge bump, saying “I don’t know how things change, but obviously the voters were happy with everything. That 86% is a very high number, but I’m so thankful to everyone who voted.”
Former Blue Jays 20-game winner Jack Morris was second with 382 votes (67%), missing by 48 votes on his 13th try but up from 54% last year. The pitcher has two chances left on the BBWAA ballot, and no player has received such a high percentage without eventually gaining election.
Jeff Bagwell had 56.0% of the vote and Lee Smith was next at 50.6%. Ex-Jay Fred McGriff had 23.9%, while Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., was at 22.9%.
Larkin, the 207th player elected and the 24th shortstop, joins former Reds greats like Sparky Anderson, Johnny Bench, Warren Giles, Ernie Lombardi, Bill McKechnie, Bid McPhee, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Eppa Rixey and Edd Roush. He’ll be inducted July 22 in Cooperstown along with former Chicago Cubs great Ron Santo, who collected 15 votes from the member golden era committee that met at the winter meetings in December.
Playing 19 seasons for the Reds and hitting .295 with 2,340 hits — including 441 doubles, 76 triples and 198 home runs — he drove in 960 runs and stole 379 bases. Larkin became the first shortstop to join the 30-30 club when he had 33 home runs and 36 steals in 1996.
“Larkin was a dream player, an outstanding leader who had great physical skills,” former Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “He really has all the credentials. If there had been a draft each year for clubs to build their team from scratch, Barry would have been the first or second pick each year over the course of his career. He was so well-rounded.”
Larkin was selected to 12 all-star games. The only shortstops elected to more games were Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith.
“When I think of Barry I think of a steady, smart and terrific all-around player both at shortstop and at the plate,” Ripken said. “I wish we had played in the same league, but we were in 11 all-star games together and I always enjoyed being around him and talking baseball.”
In all, Larkin won nine silver sluggers, only Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Mike Piazza won more.
And he could tell a David Wells story too.