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The former Cincinnati Reds shortstop was chosen on 495 of 573 ballots (86 percent) in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, well above the necessary 75 percent. Larkin was on the ballot for the third time after falling 75 votes short last year.
He will be inducted July 22 in Cooperstown along with the late Ron Santo, elected last month by the Veterans Committee.
“I am so humbled by the experience and so excited about being the newest member of the Hall of Fame,” Larkin said on a conference call.
Playing from 1986-04 – all with his hometown Reds – Larkin hit .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits and 379 stolen bases. A 12-time All-Star, he won the 1995 NL MVP award, three Gold Gloves and the 1990 World Series. In 1996, he became the first shortstop to have 30 homers and 30 steals in a season.
In addition to his Little League, high school and college coaches, Larkin credited late Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, who recruited him out of Cincinnati and then redshirted 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.”
Jack Morris was second with 382 votes (67 percent), missing by 48 votes on his 13th try but up sharply from 54 percent last year. The pitcher has two chances left on the BBWAA ballot, and no player has received such a high percentage without eventually gaining election.
Jeff Bagwell was third at 56 percent, followed by Lee Smith (51 percent), Tim Raines (49 percent), Alan Trammell (37 percent) and Edgar Martinez (37 percent).
Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, received 19.5 percent in his sixth try, down from 19.8 percent last year and 23.7 percent in 2010 – a vote before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.
Bernie Williams received the most votes (55) among players who were eligible for the first time. Bill Mueller got just four votes and will be dropped in future years, along with Juan Gonzalez (23) and Vinny Castilla (six).
Next year’s ballot figures to be the most controversial, with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling eligible for the first time.
Larkin got 52 percent when he appeared on the ballot for the first time in 2010. He received the largest single-year percentage increase to gain election since 1948, when pitcher Herb Pennock was elected with 77.7 percent, a year after finishing with 53.4 percent.
“That was really surprising. I don’t know how things changed,” Larkin said.
He is the 48th Hall of Famer who spent his entire career with one major league team and the third from the Reds, joining Johnny Bench and Bid McPhee.
Larkin broadcast for MLB Network from 2009-10, then moved to ESPN last year. He’s a spring training instructor for the Reds, and has gone to South Korea and Brazil as an envoy for Major League Baseball and the State Department.
Rafael Palmeiro, among just four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, got 72 votes and his percentage increased to 12.6 from 11 last year in his first appearance. Palmeiro received a 10-day suspension in 2005 for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, claiming it was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.
Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP implicated by Jose Canseco in steroids use, received 30 votes last year, just above the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot.
In 2014, the focus will turn to elite pitchers when Greg Maddux (355 wins) and Tom Glavine (305) become eligible. Among pitchers eligible for the Hall, all 20 of the 300-game winners are in.
Morris finished with 254 victories and was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s. A postseason star, he was the ace of three World Series winners but is burdened by a 3.90 career ERA.
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