July 23, 2012 in Sports

Larkin, Santo enshrined in Baseball Hall of Fame

Associated Press
 

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Barry Larkin lost it before he even started. Vicki Santo never wavered as she honored her late husband, Ron.

Baseball’s highest honor always seems to leave a special impression on those directly involved.

Larkin, the former star shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, and Ron Santo, a standout third baseman for the Chicago Cubs and later a beloved broadcaster for the team, were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

After wiping away tears as his teenage daughter sang the national anthem, Larkin began a litany of thank-yous to the important people who helped him along his journey, none more important than his mom, Shirley, and father, Robert, who were seated in the first row.

“If we were going to do something, we were going to do it right,” Larkin said. “Growing up, you challenged me. That was so instrumental.”

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Larkin was a two-sport star at Moeller High School and thought he might become a pro football player after accepting a scholarship to play college ball at Michigan for Bo Schembechler. That changed in a hurry.

“He (Schembechler) redshirted me my freshman year and told me that he was going to allow me just to play baseball,” Larkin said. “Occasionally, I’d call him while I was playing in the big leagues and told him that was the best decision he made as a football coach. He didn’t like that too much.”

Drafted fourth by the Reds in 1985, despite playing just 41 games his first year Larkin finished seventh in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1986.

Two years later, Larkin was an All-Star with a .296 average, 91 runs scored, 32 doubles and 40 stolen bases. And with a host of older players to guide him – Eric Davis, Ron Oester, Buddy Bell, player-manager Pete Rose, a Cincinnati native, slugger Tony Perez, and even star shortstop Dave Concepcion, the man he would replace – Larkin’s major league career quickly took off.

“I played with some monumental figures in the game,” said Larkin, who was introduced to baseball by his dad at the age of 5. “They helped me through some very rough times as a player.”

Larkin, who played his entire 19-year career with the Reds, retired after the 2004 season with a .295 career average, 2,340 hits, 1,329 runs scored and 379 stolen bases.

Ron Santo didn’t live to experience the day he always dreamed of. Plagued by health problems, he died Dec. 3, 2010, at the age of 70. His long battle with diabetes cost him both legs below the knees, but he ultimately died of complications from bladder cancer.

A member of the Chicago Cubs organization for the better part of five decades as a player (1960-74) and then beloved broadcaster (1990-2010), Santo was selected by the Veterans Committee in December, exactly one year after his death.

In 15 major league seasons, all but one with the Cubs, Santo was one of the top third basemen in major league history. He compiled a .277 batting average, had 2,254 hits, 1,331 RBIs and 365 doubles in 2,243 games. He also was a tireless fundraiser for juvenile diabetes, raising more than $65 million.

Santo fought serious medical problems after he retired as a player. He underwent surgery on his eyes, heart and bladder after doctors discovered cancer. He also had surgery more than a dozen times on his legs before they were amputated below the knees – the right one in 2001 and the left a year later.

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