In his third year on the ballot, shortstop Barry Larkin has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Larkin, a lifetime Cincinnati Red who played from 1986-2004, was named on 86 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s ballots; the threshold to receive the call to Cooperstown is 75 percent.
Players become eligible for the Hall of Fame five years after their retirement.
”It’s just amazing,” Larkin said in an interview on MLB Network. ”Last year I just started to smell it a little bit. The first year I didn’t even think it was fathomable, to be quite honest.”
Playing from 1986-04 — all with his hometown Reds — Larkin hit .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBI, 2,340 hits and 379 stolen bases. A 12-time All-Star, he won the 1995 NL MVP award, nine Silver Slugger trophies and three Gold Gloves. He helped the Reds win the 1990 World Series and in 1996 became the first shortstop to have 30 homers and 30 steals in a season.
”I’m just incredibly, incredibly moved by this whole experience and so humbled by the experience and so excited about being the newest member of the Hall of Fame,” Larkin said on a conference call.
Larkin 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. He credits Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion for helping influence his career, and recalled fondly how he learned Spanish to better communicate with his teammates.
Jack Morris was next with 382 votes (67 percent), missing by 48 votes on his 13th try but up sharply from 54 percent last year.
With no big contenders among first-time eligibles, several holdovers saw increases from last year: Jeff Bagwell (42 percent to 56 percent), Lee Smith (45 to 51), Tim Raines (38 to 49), Alan Trammell (24 to 37) and Edgar Martinez (33 to 37).
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). Nine voters submitted blank ballots.
Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, received 19.5 percent in his sixth try on the ballot, down from 19.8 percent last year and 23.7 percent in 2010 — a vote before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.
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.
Larkin will be inducted on July 22 in Cooperstown along with the late Ron Santo, who breezed in with 15 votes from the 16-member Golden Era Committee that met at baseball’s winter meetings in December.
Santo was a nine-time All-Star, hit 342 home runs and won five Gold Gloves. He was a Cubs broadcaster for two decades.
Also entering the Hall in 2012 is FOX broadcaster and former catcher Tim McCarver, who in December won the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence.
Toronto Sun writer Bob Elliott has been named the 2012 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, presented annually by the BBWAA for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.
Next year’s ballot figures to be the most controversial, with Steroid Era players Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling eligible for the first time.
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.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)