Exclusive interview: Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin comes to defense of Pete Rose
Barry Larkin recently had a sit-down with AOL Sports and discussed a myriad of topics including his storied career, why he loved playing at Shea Stadium, the new rules, the upcoming playoffs and, most notably, his thoughts on Pete Rose.
Larkin, who is working with Major League Baseball's newest sponsor, Maytag, for a first-in-category sponsorship that names Maytag the official washer and dryer of MLB, is considered one of the top players of his era, winning nine Silver Slugger awards and three Gold Glove awards. He was selected to the Major League All-Star Game twelve times, and was elected the 1995 National League Most Valuable Player.
Q: How did you get involved with Maytag, the official washer and dryer of MLB?
A: Maytag was the ambassador for the All-Star Game and Major League Baseball reached out if I'd be interested. I said absolutely because I was a guy who always like to play in the dirt. So they wanted to tie that in with me and I was looking for different opportunities to be in Major League Baseball and Maytag. It was a perfect marriage, if you will.
Q: Do you miss paying?
A: I miss the competition, the camaraderie, but I don't miss the travel. I also don't miss competing at 97 to 100 miles per hour. My body was telling me it was time to finish playing. Now, my hands don't hurt and my body doesn't hurt. But I miss the guys. I miss that camaraderie and trying to win a championship and trying to go through all the stuff you go through, good or bad.
Q: You helped revolutionize the position of shortstop. Who were role models, even when you were playing?
A: Cal Ripken Jr. or Robin Yount. I think Robin Yount was the guy that I looked at that impacted the game and I was very aware of it. When he moved to the outfield, I thought, 'well, who's gonna be my shortstop now?' I just wanted to be a new class of shortstop that was both offensively and defensively-minded. I took it very personal on defensive end to field my position, but it was prideful to make contributions offensively. Combination of the two, obviously you see guys like A-Rod, though not a shortstop anymore, Correa, a kid like that, they're making an impact. I'd like to think I had a little something to do with the modern day shortstop.
Q: When you look back at your playing days, what is the one thing you're most proud of?
A: I think my consistency. Awards are awards, but the thing is, when I look back, and what I appreciate, is that I was consistent in my approach, my attitude, my acumen. My results were pretty consistent, and I think I played the game the right way. I think within the context of playing the game right way, I still achieved success.
I'm certainly proud of winning an MVP, 30-30, World Series, Hall of Fame. All that stuff is great. But all those things were a result of that. I tried to lift guys up too. Tried to challenge them. That's kinda the school I came from.
Q: Do you have strong opinions about Pete Rose?
A: Wow. I have a very strong opinion on Pete Rose. What would you like to ask me, does he belong in the Hall of Fame?
A: He's got 4,256 hits. He was my first manager. He was the guy who gave me a chance. In my first at-bat, I used Pete Rose's shoes and Pete Rose's bat, but unfortunately he took them back after game because if not, they were gonna go home with me. I mean, he's the guy who gave me my first opportunity. I'm a huge Pete Rose fan.
Actually, when the All-Star Game announced it was going to be in Cincinnati, he was the first guy I called. I asked if he wanted to do something and he was very appreciative of me thinking of him. We couldn't work it out because Major League Baseball has some restrictions of what he's capable of doing, but I have a huge place in my heart for him. What he did on the field as a baseball field, you cannot take away. He's the all-time hits king. Period.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Mets this year?
A: Cespedes has made a huge impact. In the 50 games, he's done enough to warrant MVP consideration. For them, though, it's about the pitching. Harvey, Syndergaard, deGrom, they've all been tremendous. And Captain America, David Wright, he's coming back and it could not have been timed more perfectly, when he hit a homer in his first game back. I think it all starts with pitching. And remember, Flores crying because the trade -- and then the trade didn't go through. It was just a lot of great things happening. And it's great because the Mets have been down for some time. It's exciting.
Q: Who was your favorite teammate?
A: Hmmm. Juan Castro. funny, funny, funny, awesome, awesome dude.
Q: Favorite manager?
A: Pete Rose. Davey Johnson was good too, and Lou Piniella. I had a lot of great managers. Pete always tells me I was his first Hall of Fame player he managed. And he was my first Hall of Fame manager -- in my opinion, a Hall of Famer.
Q: What was your favorite ballpark to play in?
A: I loved Shea Stadium. I actually named my daughter Brielle D'Shea. I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was a kid, so the roar of the engines always did something for me. Whenever the planes would fly over my head, it would energize me. I'm sitting there at short, or I'm hitting, and I can feel the roar of the engine. That and the fans, I loved playing there. Just loved it.
Q: Favorite baseball movie?
A: I love 'Bull Durham' and I love '42.' Those are my two. Charlie Sheen is a friend of mine, so I like 'Major League' with Wild Thing. ... Movies, I don't know, I'm more of a music kind of guy.
Q: Who's your favorite artist?
A: I listen to so many different types of music. I wouldn't say I have a favorite, I go anywhere from Marc Anthony to Elton John. A little bit of everything in between. I go from country, to hip-hop, I got Drake, a little bit of everything.
Q: Can you make your World Series prediction?
A: (Pause) No. I can't. Honestly, when the season started, I thought the Nationals were going to really run away with this. I thought the Angels were going to be much better. I certainly didn't expect the Cubs or Astros to be this good. There's still baseball to be played, and I wonder if the Mets will be able to continue doing what they've been doing. When you haven't historically won, it comes down to those last few weeks of the season. Things become real.
As far as the American League, Kansas City is for real. I'd like to see teams win that haven't always been there. It'd be nice to see the Astros, the Cubs, teams like that.
See photos of Larkin from throughout his career: