Terry Larkin

Just a weird and sad story.

Ron Rollins, wonderful author of Baseball Over Here, is a very good person to me. He sends me emails with random little articles. The other day, he sent me this article about Terry Larkin. Haven’t heard of him? Well, let’s get to the story.

Debuting for the New York Mutuals in 1876, Terry Larkin threw a complete game in his only appearance of the season. Over the course of the next three seasons, Larkin would be one of the best pitchers in the National League and extremely consistent. He notched seasons of 29, 29, and 31 wins. His ERA’s over that time were 2.14, 2.24, and 2.44. All of those seem very impressive, but his ERA+’s in those years were 114, 108, and 106 (a little above average). As for the type of pitcher that he was, he didn’t strike out a lot of guys, not topping 2.9 K/9 (not all that uncommon), but he was very accurate with BB/9’s below 1 and as low as 0.4. In addition, Larkin seems to have been one of the first pitchers to utilize the curveball, and Jack Lynch reported that he learned the pitch from Larkin. Oddly, he threw the pitch with his two middle fingers.

Unfortunately, an arm injury in 1879 would derail his career. It’s not all that surprising considering he had thrown over 500 innings in each of the past 3 seasons (sidenote: for all the talk about modern pitchers not throwing all that many pitchers, someone should really do a study on the attrition rate of earlier pitchers versus new because a lot of these guys go down quick). Larkin pitched 28 ineffective innings in 1880, but he would be out of baseball later in the season. He would reappear four years later as a second baseman in the American Association.

But the most fascinating, if not morbid, part of the story is what happened off the field. On the field, Larkin seemed to be a model of consistency, but off the field, he was the opposite. Prone to drinking, Larkin was uneasy at home, but after one night in 1883, his wife, Catharine, couldn’t take it anymore and berated him for coming home drunk. Not having any of that, Larkin shot Catharine. When the cops came and under the belief he had just killed his wife, he threatened to kill himself and then slit his throat with a razor. Miraculously, neither he or Catharine died. Even more miraculously, Catharine didn’t press charges. While institutionalized, he tried to commit suicide again but failed.

Later after he had been released from Richmond (where he played in 1884), Larkin threatened his father and was arrested again. Larkin later became a bartender, but he was fired in 1886. Unhappy, he came back to the bar and forced the bar owner to duel him. The owner refused, but Larkin pushed a pistol to his forehead. Hurriedly, the owner walked out of the bar and locked the former player inside, and then, he raced to find a policeman. The policeman came and arrested him. Seeing his life in complete shambles, Larkin finally succeeded in committing suicide while in prison in 1894.



2 Responses to “Terry Larkin”

  1. The Common Man Says:

    If I remember correctly, there an article on Larkin in Bill James’ New Historical Baseball Abstract. At least a blurb. You’re right, a very sad story.

    I just posted a response.

  2. Ron Rollins Says:

    Somewhere in Philadelphia, Bret Myers is yelling, “What a punk!!!!”

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