Derek Jeter, Larry Walker and the rest of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame class will have to wait another year for their big moment at Cooperstown.
The Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that it has canceled the July 26 induction ceremony because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, the class will be included at next year’s induction festivities -- along with any additional new choices -- on July 25, 2021.
A record crowd of over 70,000 had been expected this summer in an outdoor field at the small town in upstate New York to honor Jeter, the former New York Yankees captain who came within one vote of unanimous election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in January.
Jeter and Walker were to be inducted with catcher Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller, the pioneering players’ union head who negotiated free agency and transformed the sport.
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame will be an incredible honor, but the health and safety of everyone involved are paramount,” Jeter said in a statement released by the Hall.
“I respect and support the decision to postpone this year’s enshrinement and am looking forward to joining current Hall of Famers, fans, staff and my family and friends in Cooperstown in 2021,” he said.
This will be the first year without an induction ceremony since 1960.
“It was a very difficult decision, but with so many unknowns facing the world, the board felt strongly that this was the right decision,” said Hall member Joe Morgan, vice chairman of the shrine’s board.
Record attendance for an induction ceremony was set in 2007, exceeding 70,000 when Cal Ripken Jr. and the late Tony Gwynn were enshrined. Cooperstown is within easy driving distance of the New York metro area, and loads of Yankees fans had already made their plans to see Jeter on the Hall stage.
The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum closed at the end of the day on March 15 due to the virus outbreak.
Jeter, now the CEO of the Miami Marlins, and Walker were elected by member of the BBWAA. Simmons and Miller were chosen in December by the Hall’s Modern Era Committee.
“I fully understand and agree with the board’s decision,” Walker said in a statement from the Hall. “It is most important to do the right thing for everybody involved, and that means not putting any participants in jeopardy.”
Simmons echoed that view.
“I commend the board for making this decision under these difficult circumstances, particularly in New York, a state severely hit by the pandemic. This was the wisest and smartest thing to do, given the existing environment and the danger that this pandemic presents,” he said.
Also to be honored during next year’s Hall induction weekend: 2020 Ford C. Frick Award winner Hawk Harrelson, 2020 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Nick Cafardo and the winner of the 2020 Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, David Montgomery.
Jeter, a key to five World Series titles, was on 396 of 397 ballots in voting announced Jan. 21. The only player with a higher percentage was former Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera, who became the first unanimous pick in 2019. Walker, making his 10th ballot appearance, got 304 votes -- six over the threshold.
Next year’s first-time eligible players have no odds-on favorites: Torii Hunter and Mark Buehrle are among the players who will be on the BBWAA ballot for the first time.
Holdovers include Curt Schilling, who fell 20 votes short this year, and steroids-tainted stars Roger Clemens (56 shy) and Barry Bonds (57). All three will be on the ballot for the ninth time, one shy of the limit.
If anyone new is elected, it would be the first ceremony since 1949 to combine multiple classes.
The first four Hall classes were inducted jointly in 1939 on the day the Hall of Fame opened. The classes of 1946 and ’47 were inducted together, as were the classes of 1948 and ’49.
Rogers Hornsby was elected in 1942, but there was no induction ceremony because of travel restrictions during World War II.
There was no balloting in 1940, ’41 and ’43. No ceremony was held in 1950, ’58 and ’60 after no one was elected.
Since Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner became the original Hall of Fame class in 1936, the only previous years with no inductions were 1940, ’41, ’43, ’50, ’52, ’58 and ’60.