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19-year Red tells fans he hopes to return in '05

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Barry Larkin said goodbye to everyone, just in
case.

The Reds captain hugged teammates on the field, bid good luck to
Joe Nuxhall in the broadcast booth and even kicked back with fans
in the stands for a half-inning.

Then, he left his hometown, unsure if he was coming back.

Larkin played what might have been his final game in a
Cincinnati uniform on Sunday, a 2-0 victory by the Pittsburgh
Pirates that was much more than just the end of a season.

It became an impromptu send-off for the 40-year-old shortstop,
who would like to play one more season in Cincinnati but hasn't
been offered a contract.

"I don't know if this is the end, but I wanted to say thank
you," Larkin said. "This was my way of doing it."

Larkin, who grew up in Cincinnati and has played all 19 seasons
with the Reds, came out of the game after three innings so he could
start his round of farewells.

He mixed in a pitch to come back.

"Thank you all, and I hope to see you next year," he said over
the public address system, getting a loud cheer from the 30,854
fans.

So far, the Reds have given no indication they want him back.
The club decided to not talk about a contract extension until after
the season, an ominous sign.

"I can only let my baseball ability talk for me," said Larkin,
who hit .289 in 111 games. "It's like I'm running for political
office. It's a shame. It's like I have to politick to get asked
back here. I don't know why it is, but it is what it is."

Even the Pirates made sure to say goodbye. Every player hugged
him on the field after they congratulated each other over the
season-ending win.

"I hope things work out for Barry," manager Lloyd McClendon
said. "It would be hard for me to see him in another uniform. He's
a class act. He's everything that's right about the game of
baseball."

The crowd was subdued for most of the game, which featured two
runs and two emotional moments.

Oliver Perez (12-10) gave up five hits and struck out nine in
six innings, finishing as the Pirates' top winner this season with
a 2.98 ERA. Tony Alvarez's fourth-inning sacrifice fly off Brandon
Claussen (2-7) and Jose Castillo's solo homer made the difference.

Jose Mesa pitched the last inning for his 10th consecutive save,
leaving him 43-for-48 overall.

The Pirates (72-89) completed their 12th straight losing season,
matching Milwaukee for the longest current streak of futility. The
Reds (76-86) have four consecutive losing seasons, their longest
such slump since the 1950s.

The Reds waited until the end of the third inning to do what
everyone came to see.

Nuxhall, who is retiring after his 38th year in the booth, got
an ovation when he was shown on the videoboard between innings
while the Reds infielders warmed up.

Moments later, Anderson Machado left the dugout and headed for
shortstop, hugging Larkin before replacing him. The rest of his
teammates formed a farewell line as the crowd came to its feet.

"I've been trying to put off (thinking about) Barry leaving for
all these years," said first baseman Sean Casey, who wrapped his
arms tightly around him. "I'm still trying to put it off, but I
did get a little choked up.

"The guy's played here for 19 years and if anyone on any team
ever should be able to go out on his terms, it's Barry Larkin."

Larkin waved his cap to the crowd as he headed for the dugout.
An inning later, he arrived in an open area by the upper deck and
thanked fans over the public address system. He also visited the
broadcast booth.

The 12-time All-Star later went into his stands in uniform to
spend some time with his family and watch the otherwise uneventful
game.

Jack Wilson had another record-setting day at shortstop for the
Pirates.

He doubled in his first at-bat for his 201st hit, tying Honus
Wagner's club record for a shortstop set in 1908. Wilson also dived
to get Larkin's grounder in the third and flipped the ball with his
glove to start a double play.

It was the 129th double play started by Wilson, a record for a
Pirates shortstop.

Reds outfielder Adam Dunn struck out once, leaving him with a
major league record 195 whiffs in his season of extremes. Dunn also
hit 46 homers, drove in 102 runs and walked 107 times.

Game notes
Pittsburgh's Jason Kendall was behind the plate for the
147th time this season, matching his career high from 2000. ... The
Pirates set a club record with only 103 errors. ... The Reds' home
attendance was 2,287,250 for the second year at Great American.
They drew 2,355,259 in the park's inaugural season.