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Larkin doesn’t fall short

Reds great gets only Hall pass

Barry Larkin made the big leap in his third season of eligibility, seeing his vote total increase by 24.3 percent. Barry Larkin made the big leap in his third season of eligibility, seeing his vote total increase by 24.3 percent. (File/David Kohl/Associated Press)
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / January 10, 2012
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Maybe voters are awaiting the Class of 2013, when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, and Curt Schilling are eligible for the first time, because yesterday the Baseball Writers’ Association of America elected only one player - former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin - to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in July.

“It was absolutely an unbelievable experience,’’ said Larkin, who received 86.4 percent of the vote.

“I felt like it was almost an out-of-body experience. I couldn’t believe it. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it.’’

Jack Morris, in his 13th year of eligibility (players have 15 years on the ballot if they receive 5 percent or more of the vote every year), was second with 66.7 percent and Jeff Bagwell, a former Red Sox farmhand, was third with 56 percent.

Former Red Sox closer Lee Smith (50.6), Tim Raines (48.7), Alan Trammell (36.8), and Edgar Martinez (36.5) followed. First-time eligible Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams led all newcomers with 9.6 percent.

Larkin will be honored at Hall of Fame weekend July 21-22 with the late Ron Santo, who was elected by the Golden Era Committee.

Tim McCarver, who won the Ford C. Frick award for broadcasting and J.G. Taylor Spink Award electee Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, will also be honored that weekend.

A total of 573 ballots, including nine blanks, were cast by BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years of service. This year, 430 votes (75 percent) were required for election.

Larkin, 47, was a 12-time All-Star, nine-time Silver Slugger, and three-time Gold Glove winning shortstop.

Larkin, who was in his third year of eligibility, received 495 votes, for an 86.4 percent plurality.

According to the Hall of Fame, his vote total reflected a 24.3 percent gain from the 2011 ballot, the largest jump in one year to gain election since 1948, when pitcher Herb Pennock received 77.7 percent after having tallied 53.4 percent in 1947.

Larkin’s jump is the largest for any Hall of Fame election in which at least 400 ballots were cast. First baseman Tony Perez made a 16.4 percent jump from 1999 (60.8) to 2000 (77.2).

Larkin becomes the 297th Hall of Famer and 24th shortstop in the Hall of Fame. He is also the 48th Hall of Famer who played his entire career with one club and the third to do so for the Cincinnati Reds, joining catcher Johnny Bench and 19th-century second baseman Bid McPhee.

A Cincinnati native, Larkin played 19 seasons for the Reds and batted .295 with 2,340 hits. He also had more walks (939) than strikeouts (817).

Larkin became the first shortstop to join the 30-30 club: in 1996 he had 33 home runs and 36 steals.

In a conference call, Larkin credited late Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, who recruited him, and red-shirted him as a freshman.

“I was a better football player than a baseball player at the time,’’ Larkin said. “I just worked on my baseball talent, just that alone. That was an eye-opener because I got so much better.’’

“[Barry] was the best shortstop of his era, and if not for Ozzie Smith, he would have had a lot more Gold Glove awards, too,’’ said former Reds general manager Jim Bowden.

“It certainly is a deserving honor for the Cincinnati native and Reds shortstop,’’ said Bench. “Barry distinguished himself as a tremendous leader and a dominating player.’’

“I am so looking forward to being part of that elite team [in the Hall of Fame],’’ Larkin said. “To be recognized as one of the best all time in the history of the game . . . I was thinking yesterday, I’ve got young kids, and 20-30-40-100 years from now, when they’re old and gone, their kids or grandkids will be able to say my grandfather or great-grandfather was a member of the Hall of Fame.’’

It was another bittersweet year for Morris, who gained ground (13.2 percent), but has only two years of eligibility remaining.

Bagwell hit .297 with 449 homers in 15 seasons and has not been linked to steroids.

Steroids appear to be playing a big role in keeping both Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro’s vote total down. McGwire received 19.5 percent of the votes, Palmeiro 12.6.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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