A timeout for Larkin

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on July 23, 2012 – 2:40 pm

A baseball timeout before football breaks the huddle this Friday:

The kid with his mother’s blue eyes lives and works in a new town now.

But somehow he’s kept more stuff in the 5-1-3 than he brought with him. Part of the mass is the framed autograph poster still hanging at the head of the bed. Too precious to travel 1,000 miles and shove into an apartment.

If you were nine years old and you could go to sleep only if you were listening to Marty and Joe and you were always the Reds on the 1994 version of Ken Griffey Jr.  Baseball, then Barry Louis Larkin, fellow Cincinnatian, is your man.

When his man went into Cooperstown Sunday, the kid with his mother’s blue eyes was also back east. Somewhere on a beach listening to Marty and Jeff on the phone app, the runs, hits, and errors slapping against the waves.

“Sure, I remember,” the kid is saying Monday morning from his office. “It was over at Eastgate. It was the year after he was MVP and the year he went 30-30.”

Right. 1996. It was at Biggs and Larkin was signing about 200 or so of the MVP posters, a nice drawing with his stat line at the bottom that wasn’t nearly as impressive as watching him play night in and night out in the middle of the diamond with a frosty grace.

The kid’s father knew Larkin through his job as a sportswriter. The father liked him because he always took a call or was in front of his locker no matter the sensitivity of the topic. And if you were a Cincinnati Red in the early ’90s, there was no shortage of sensitive topics.

From race to stadiums to suspensions. The kid’s father always admired Larkin for how handled the enormous pressure of that daily tinderbox with unflappable class, heaped on the fact he was doing it in his hometown.

The kid showed up with his father at the back of the line as Larkin began signing the poster. When it was his turn and Larkin saw the father standing there as if he were waiting in front of his locker with a notepad and tape recorder, he smiled the Larkin smile.

“What are you doing waiting?” Larkin asked. “Why didn’t you come up to the front of the line?”

“Nope,” I told him. “If I waited with my father in line for Yaz, he’s waiting for you.”

Carl Michael Yastrzemski. Hynes Auditorium. Downtown Boston. 1968. The winter after the Year of the Yaz. Triple Crown. MVP. The line was longer than the Impossible Dream Red Sox’ 100-1 shot.

Larkin laughed and the father introduced him to the kid with his mother’s blue eyes. The kid reached out his hand.

“I think it surprised him I shook his hand,” said the kid, who still remembers the inscription.

There has been the furious stampede of the intervening 16 years. High school. Football games. Baseball games. Girls. Two college degrees. Two beat-up cars. A first paycheck. Yet the inscription is as fresh as that day in the spring.

“He put my name,” the kid recalled Monday. “Best wishes. Barry Larkin. 11.”

A few months later, they were at Riverfront. Sept. 22, 1996, when Larkin hit the deep fly against the Cards to become the first 30-30 shortstop in history. Whoops. High fives. Only then did the kid who always keeps score when he goes to a Reds game carefully fill in the pencil diamond.

“I bet when that room is finally cleaned out,” the kid said, “we’ll find that scorecard. We’ll find a lot of scorecards.”

But that’s the nice thing about a boyhood hero, isn’t it? You don’t need the scorecard to remember a smile and a handshake, or an autograph, or a simple nod.

The kid still keeps a scorecard when he goes to a Reds game in his new town. And he’ll go once a series. Someday, the Larkin poster is going to catch up with him.

“I still remember,” the kid said Monday.

Now when they go see Yaz and Barry Louis Larkin, they won’t have to wait.

There are no lines in front of the plaques at Cooperstown.

Posted in Hobson's Choice | 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “A timeout for Larkin”

  1. By 34inXXIII on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t envious of the kid. I was, at least, fortunate enough to attend the induction ceremony for Barry Louis Larkin. I also waited in the Hall of Fame for his plaque to finally be placed along side those of Yaz & the nearly 300 other Hall of Famers….and so were many other Reds fans. It’s probably the only time there will be a line to see that plaque, but it was well worth it. That’s ultimately why we were all there in Cooperstown that weekend.

  2. By mwindle1973 on Jul 31, 2012 | Reply

    Thank you for extending Marvin’s contract! He’s not always the most popular figure in Bengaldom. But I think a thorough look at his tenure shows it has been successful when viewed on the terms of what did Marvin do with what Marvin could control. Last season was a big step in the right direction. But if you look at there were still enough personalities in the locker room, to call out the offensive planning, and create news for the team off the field. I feel like this season will be the first in Lewis’ entire tenure where he had what I would call a good locker room atmosphere. It’s a team atmosphere and if the “stars” are guys like Dalton & Green who don’t even like to talk about themselves, let alone be selfish. Beyond that you got guys like Whit, Peko, Cook, Geathers & Hall that are leading this team from the inside out. They are extensions of Marvin’s leadership. It’s all lining up, we just have to keep lining it up further and good things will happen. The good drafts, smart signings, and smart not-signings. The trades have been phenomenal. And now extending Lewis through 2014. According to ESPN, looking at future cap space based on current contracts, that we have the best future cap situation of all 32 teams. Two of the worst were Pit and Bal. Long term outlook should be to takeover the AFC North. We are young and growing, with great coaches, and plenty of future money. Pit & Bal are aging (especially Pit) quickly, have some youth but not enough, and are cashed strapped in the future. These next 2 seasons are going to determine the division front runner. Part of will be decided on the field, and part of it in the front office.

  3. By mwindle1973 on Aug 5, 2012 | Reply

    You know if you look at the roster numbers situation following the Harvey release. Which surprised me a little. He was having a decent camp so far. But the injuries at CB made that decision for us. I see us doing something like this…2 QB, 3 HB, 1 FB, 3 TE, 6 WR, 8 Oline, 6 LB, 1 LS, 1 P, 1 K. That’s 32 players leaving 21 spots for the Dline & DBs. Usually we keep 18 (8 & 10) at those three position groups. That leaves 3 extra spots. It’s a given we are going to have to keep 11 DBs (7 CBs, 4 Ss) because of the injury situation. That leaves 2 spots. Isn’t it a given we have to carry 9 DLineman too? We have to keep 5 DTs or cut Pat Sims or one of the rookies. If we keep 5 DTs, we can’t just keep 3 DEs. Especially with Geathers not being a great pass rusher. He’ll get kept because he can do so many things and do them solidly. And we need him to mentor the others. But we have to keep Anderson too. So if 9 is a given at Dline, then that leave 1 roster spot. So this situation at CB is not quite as bad as it seems. We could keep 12 DBs to start the season. Or we could use an extra spot to keep Dennis Roland or Otis Hudson on the Oline. We only have room for one of them if we keep the standard 8. We really would like to use it on a 7th WR with all the talent there. But it may have to be used at HB depending on BScott’s injury. We may have to carry 4 HBs on the roster to start the season. But I would almost count on 11 DBs and 9 DLineman.

  4. By mwindle1973 on Aug 6, 2012 | Reply

    After posting the comment above yesterday, I look at the depth chart today. And WR really sticks out. Those last 2-3 cuts we make to get to 53 are going to be tough. Once I seen the 1st depth chart today, I looked past the first 6 WRs, there are still Sanu, Jones & Hazelton. There is a lot to protect in those 3 players. But it looks like one might get away. Hopefully we can get them all to the practice squad. I also noticed on the depth chart that Micah Johnson has been moved from LB to LDE and is the guy behind Geathers. So now what seemed like a stacked position is now down to 3 top guys, an injured starter, and a 2nd year college free agent, convert from LB. Just going to have to keep the fingers crossed that Geathers gets all the “junk” out of his knee the 1st time, and that Dunlap can stay healthy while Geathers is out. That’s the best case scenario. What scares me is the procedure Geathers is getting, sometimes has to be repeated to finish the job. I’m sure Anderson could probably play both sides if needed, but that kills the rotation. And while Micah Johnson is big for a LB, he would be the shortest and lightest DE on the roster. And I have to think his placement at DE is more of way of protecting a spot on the practice squad for him, because he’s not going to make it there as a LB this year. It’s going to be the tightest roster cutdown in the Lewis era by far. Which is where you want to be as a team.

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