CINCINNATI - The big day had arrived in the Larkin family. But the news was slow to come.
Monday was the assigned day for the Baseball Writers to announce if they had chosen anyone for selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Barry Larkin was expected to be a strong candidate, but by no means, a shoo-in choice.
So Robert and Shirley Larkin waited by the phone at their Cincinnati home. Barry talked with his parents Sunday night and indicated that he might know the decision a little early. He said he would call to give them a "heads up" so they could relax and then deal with any media inquiries.
The morning turned to afternoon and still there was no call. It got near the 3pm. announcement. "We were on pins and needles" said Shirley. "The closer it got, we didn't think he was going to make it."
They turned on the television to the MLB Network and they found out like every other baseball fan that their son, their third of five children had been the only selection to this year's Hall of Fame Class."
"It's great! Just great!" Shirley Larkin said as she clapped her hands about an hour after the announcement. "We are very pleased, and thankful."
"It's the epitome of all the things we've shared with Barry during his career" said Robert Larkin. "This was the greatest."
This is one of Cincinnati's greatest sports families. Mike was the first of four sons. He was a multi-sport star who became the football captain at Notre Dame. 13 months later came Barry, who could have played football as well as baseball in college. 16 months later came Byron, who became Xavier's greatest scorer in basketball. The youngest, Stephen, had a fine baseball career at Texas and played briefly with the Reds.
"The hard part was making sure his head didn't get too big" Shirley Larkin told me about Barry's rise to fame. "That was very important to us, remembering where you came from and to be thankful for what you have."
The siblings did their part. There was a "you can't out-do us Barry" attitude in the Larkin household.
The family is a big reason why Barry Larkin was talked about Monday as not only being a great baseball player, but a good friend, a trusted teammate and a solid citizen.
The Larkin family has never been to Cooperstown. But Monday, they knew they had to start making arrangements. They were getting calls of congratulations from bowling friends, and auto mechanics and fellow church members. Mark Brooks, who played football with Barry at Moeller 30 years ago, called with his congratulations. Their oldest daughter Robin, who lives in Mississippi, says her cell phone "lit up" with calls and text messages as soon as the announcement was made.
When I talked with the Larkins around 4:15 on Monday, they still hadn't heard from their Hall of Fame son. They knew that he was busy with interviews and other commitments.
I asked what they would say when they finally had a chance to speak with him. Shirley Larkin said "I'll say congratulations, we're proud of you." Then Robert Larkin finished her thought. "And I'll ask him 'why didn't you call us like you said you would'".
Just like a mom. Just like a dad. Happy, excited, proud, and very, very, very relieved.
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