Former Cincinnati Reds star Barry Larkin arrives on stage for...

Former Cincinnati Reds star Barry Larkin arrives on stage for his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown, N.Y. (July 22, 2012) Credit: AP

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The whole object in baseball is coming home, of course, which never was lost on Barry Larkin. He always thought it was cool that he grew up in Cincinnati, idolizing Davey Concepcion and teammates, then played his entire distinguished major-league career with the Reds. He helped them win a title, like the ones he watched as a kid.

"It was a surreal experience," he said Sunday at the podium after he was inducted into a new home, the Hall of Fame.

Posing for a pre-ceremony photo with Willie Mays and Yogi Berra and being on the stage with 44 of the greatest ballplayers in history -- and the widow of fellow 2012 inductee Ron Santo -- were surreal, too. As soon as he reached the microphone, he shouted, "This is un-stinking believable."

Throughout the weekend, and ever since Reds icon Pete Rose, then the manager, called him up from the minors and sent him up to pinch hit in 1986, Larkin has acknowledged that the most unbelievable and rewarding aspect of his story is that it all focused on Cincinnati. His dad, Robert, who once played high school ball against Hall of Famer Al Kaline, taught him the game. His mom, Shirley, who could run for mayor, her son said in his speech, taught him how to be a good citizen.

Coach Gerry Faust taught him football, before Faust left Archbishop Moeller High School to coach Notre Dame. The Reds fed his imagination, before and after he got there.

Larkin spoke of the time he was a student at the University of Michigan and visited the Reds when they played an exhibition game in Detroit. Reds star Dave Parker, who was in the seats Sunday, took him by the hand, introduced him to Concepcion and told the veteran shortstop, "He's going to take your job."

That did happen, and Concepcion helped. "He spent countless, countless hours with me," Larkin said. "He worked with me on everything on the field."

The new Hall of Famer gave part of his speech in Spanish, which he learned in part, he said because, "I wanted to do everything like Davey." It was also because, as team leader, 12-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and .353 World Series hitter, he wanted to make Spanish-speaking players feel at home.

There were dozens of Reds jerseys in the crowd of 18,000 Sunday, many people having driven from Ohio to pay tribute to a fellow native son. "I think that's a very unique situation and I think the reaction you saw was a product of that relationship," Larkin said.

Although he lives in Orlando now, Cincinnati still means the world to him. He will have a Hall of Fame celebration next month on the same street that used to host parties for the Big Red Machine.

He will be emotional that day, as he was Sunday, when his younger daughter Cymber -- a teen recording artist who has the No. 3 current hit in Brazil -- sang the national anthem.

What hit home for all of the crowd Sunday was the speech from Santo's widow, Vicki, who alluded to the disappointment that the former Cubs great didn't get to see this in his lifetime.

"This is not a sad day. This is a great day," she said.

She spoke of Santo's long battle with Type 1 diabetes and his work in raising more than $65 million to fight juvenile diabetes.

"He believed he was given the gift of talent, as well as the challenge of diabetes so that through his hardship, he could shed light on a cause; that he could help others through his story," she told the audience, which roared when she added: "Celebrate for Ron. Celebrate with us and celebrate with him. Celebrate his journey, celebrate his cause, celebrate an amazing life. He truly had a wonderful life."

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