Appreciating Barry Larkin (even more)
So I’ve been reading Hal McCoy’s new memoir — I just finished this morning, actually — which comes out in March. I’ll say it’s essential if you’re a Reds fan, and if you’re not a Reds fan … well, it depends upon your taste for such things. I lapped it up.
Anyway, there are plenty of good stories and here’s one that I particularly enjoyed:
Over the winter, Bowden signed free agent left-handed pitcher John Smiley, a quiet, moody guy who sat in front of his locker for two days before every start wearing earphones and daring anybody to say a single word to destroy his concentration. After losses — and there were nine of them with only three wins in 1993 — his post-game interviews were terse, one-word answers. Most writers avoided him. Captain Baarry Larkin, the supreme professional, observed Smiley’s act for as long as he could stand it. After another loss Smiley was being obstinate with the media and Larkin said in a loud voice, so everybody in the clubhouse could hear, "That’s not how we do things around here. We show respect to the beat writers. They are just doing their job." It was a pattern Larkin followed throughout his long tenure with the Reds. He policed the clubhouse, made certain every player, rookie or veteran, acted in a professional manner with the writers. It is why there were seldom issues between players and writers.Article continues below ...
There was an incident before the 1990 playoffs involving relief pitcher Rob Dibble and Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer Mike Paolercio. When Paolercio entered the clubhouse, Dibble walked up and dumped a bucket of ice water over Paolercio’s head and said, "That’s what I think of what you wrote today." A mystified Paolercio wondered what set off Dibble and found out only later it was a headline on one of his stories. Unbeknownst to Dibble and most every player and fan, writers don’t put headlines on their stories. A copyreader/editor at the paper does that, and writers often encounter problems with players over headlines. After Dibble’s showering of Paolercia, [Jose] Rijo dug a new shirt out of his locker and gave it to the writer. And Larkin took Dibble aside for some refresher counseling.
Later, Davey Johnson managed the Reds, and (according to McCoy) was asked to name the best player he’d ever managed: "Barry Larkin. He did so much for a team, on the field and in the clubhouse."
Meanwhile, what was it about 1990s closers? Dibble, Williams, Rocker … Do you have to be angry all the time to get that job done?
Oh. Right. Mariano Rivera. Best not to generalize.