COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – On the day before Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo are inducted into the Hall of Fame, Tim McCarver and Bob Elliott were the center of attention.
The two were honored Saturday in a ceremony at Doubleday Field. McCarver received the Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions in broadcasting, while Elliott of the Toronto Sun was given the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for sports writing. It was the second straight year the awards were not given on induction Sunday.
“I received a text from Al Michaels today. The text was very, very thoughtful and very nice. And I also received a text from Bob Costas,” McCarver, the former big league catcher in his fourth decade in a broadcast booth, said before the ceremony. “And the reason I’m dropping those two names is to show you the importance of the weekend that Bob and Barry and the family of Ron Santo and I are about to experience.
“I’m humbled by the whole experience. … It’s very difficult to be here without being overwhelmed. And I am. And I’m trying to get over it so I can get through my talk.”
While Elliott, a national fixture in Canada for the past 30 years, also called the honor “humbling,” he did recall with some joy a school guidance counselor who wasn’t exactly encouraging.
“He said, ‘What do you want to be?’ and I said, ‘I’d like to work at the newspaper.’ So he’s looking at my marks and laughing and said, ‘You’ve got a 61 in English Composition and you’ve got a 63 in English. You’ve got no chance,’ ” Elliott said. “I said, ‘Sir, I’ve been working there for three years on weekends.’ He said, ‘You can never work there full time. Maybe you can get a job at the Napanee Beaver.’ It’s a bi-weekly.
“I went back to a reunion about 20 years later and I couldn’t find him. Not that I was looking for him,” he said with a smile.
The awards presentation also celebrated the three living former managers who led the St. Louis Cardinals to World Series titles: Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst and Whitey Herzog, as well as Tony La Russa, who led the Cards to the 2011 championship.
The late afternoon featured an inductee press conference held on the Clark Sports Center’s gymnasium floor, where three of Santo’s children shared their thoughts on a father who passed away at the age of 70 in 2010
“We’re as a family just very honored to be here representing our father who we know very much wanted to be here, of course, and was looking forward to it,” son Ron Santo Jr. said. “We’re very honored and very proud of him and hoping that we can represent him the best that we know we can.”
Santo’s daughter, Linda Santo Brown, added: “We’re able to experience a little bit of what my dad would and it’s a remarkable feeling. I feel he’s experiencing it through us and that’s what gives us true satisfaction.”
With less than 24 hours before being honored with his bronze plaque in front of thousands of fans sporting Cincinnati red, Larkin began his pre-induction press conference talking about what the lead-up has been like.
“I’m really excited about this. The last couple of days have been great,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with many of the Hall of Famers and they’ve made me feel very welcomed here and very comfortable.”
As for his induction speech, Larkin, the longtime Reds shortstop now working for ESPN, gave some clues as to what to expect.
“I’ve been very vocal about the keys to my success as a player. And what those are basically is what I’ll speak about during my speech,” Larkin said. “It’s the perspective that guys gave me when I first 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, how to handle success and failure, all those things that my mother and father instilled in me as a young boy but they were reinforced by the players on the team.
“So not only did they help me on the field with becoming a better player, but they helped me also become a better person on and off the field.”