Barry Larkin didn't have to go very far to become a Hall of Famer.
He was born in Cincinnati, he went to high school in Cincinnati and he played all 19 of his Major League Baseball seasons in Cincinnati.
"It was a special relationship (with Cincinnati)," Larkin, 48, said during a conference call Tuesday afternoon. "It meant a lot. In retrospect, it meant more now than when I was playing."
The fact that Larkin won't be anywhere near Cincinnati on Sunday means a lot, too. That's because Larkin will be the featured guest at the 2012 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which starts at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.
"Barry was a quiet leader," Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said of the Cincinnati Reds' 12-time All-Star shortstop via telephone Tuesday. "The fact that he was able to have that much success playing for one team in the city in which he grew up just leads to the greater connectivity he had with the fans, which made him so popular wherever he went."
Larkin's popularity will be put to the test Sunday as the only living member in the Class of 2012 attempts to draw a crowd that Hall officials expect to be similar to the estimated 17,500 fans who attended the 2011 inductions of Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick.
"We think we'll be in that range again," Idelson said. "Anything above 15,000 is very good for Hall of Fame Weekend."
Larkin will have a little help, though, as 45 Hall of Famers _ Alomar, Blyleven and Gillick included _ will return for an Induction Ceremony that also will honor the late Ron Santo. The Golden Era Committee's inaugural selection this past December, former Chicago Cubs third baseman Santo will be inducted into the Hall a little more than 19 months after his cancer-related death at age 70.
Nine-time All-Star Santo played 14 seasons for the Cubs before ending his career after one final season with the Chicago White Sox. When he retired
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in 1974, Santo held MLB records for double plays and chances by a third baseman that were later broken by fellow Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.
"Five (straight) Gold Glove awards, most assists in a season by a third baseman, most double plays by a third baseman in a career, most chances accepted at third base," Idelson said of Santo, who was a Cubs broadcaster from 1990-2010. "All (are) important attributes in judging his career performance."
Santo played at least 150 games in 11 of his major league seasons despite battling diabetes, which led to the loss of both of his legs below the knees after his career.
"Ron quietly overcame a lot when he played," Idelson said of Santo, who batted .277 with 2,254 hits _ including 342 homers _ and 1,331 RBIs in his career. "The stories go that he never wanted to share that he had diabetes (and) he would try to counteract how he was feeling by what he was eating during games. It's quite frankly probably many times (that he) never played at 100 percent, but that's the perseverance that helps define the character of some of our Hall of Famers. Ron Santo's certainly at the top of that list in terms of perseverance."
Larkin must be close to the top of that list as well.
Elected in his third year on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot this past January, Moeller High graduate Larkin actually chose a football scholarship to the University of Michigan over a second-round draft selection in 1982 by his hometown Reds. After redshirting for the Wolverines football team for one season, Larkin returned to baseball and earned two All-American honors at Michigan. He went on to make the U.S. Olympic baseball team in 1984, then was picked again by the Reds in the first round _ fourth overall _ of the 1985 draft.
Larkin made his major league debut in August of 1986 and became the Reds full-time shortstop in 1987. Three seasons later, Larkin and the Reds were World Series champions.
Larkin batted .301 during the 1990 regular season, which helped the Reds to an appearance in the National League Championship Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh, four games to two, to advance to the World Series opposite the Oakland A's. Larkin then batted .353 in the Reds' four-game sweep of the A's.
Cincinnati made it back to the postseason in 1995, when Larkin won the NL MVP award after batting .319 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs in 131 games. He went on to bat .385 in the Reds' three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series, then hit .389 in the NLCS. Despite his efforts in the NLCS, the Reds were swept by the Atlanta Braves in four games.
Larkin finished his Hall of Fame career with a .295 batting average, 2,340 hits and 1,329 runs.
Larkin and Santo make up the 71st Hall of Fame class, although Sunday will mark the 68th Induction Ceremony as the first four classes (1936-39) were honored together in 1939.
Sunday's ceremony will follow the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation, which starts at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. The event will feature Ford C. Frick Award winner Tim McCarver (baseball broadcasting), J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Bob Elliott (baseball writing), and Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog and Tony LaRussa _ three managers who led the St. Louis Cardinals to World Series championships.
The annual Hall of Fame Parade of Legends will follow the Awards Presentation at 6 p.m. Saturday on Main Street in Cooperstown.
The website weather.com is calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s on Saturday and Sunday.