New inductees share WS experiences

September 9th, 2021

Less than 24 hours after , and entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020, the three men were back together to reflect on their careers and the once-in-a-lifetime experience of induction day.

Having strolled through the Plaque Gallery early Thursday morning, the three newest Hall of Famers had a chance to see their plaques hanging among the greatest names in baseball history.

“When I saw it this morning, words didn't enter my mind,” Walker said during a 2020 Hall of Fame Roundtable. “The awe in my face, the expression, is what I think my parents saw. I just sat there in awe and stared at it.”

While all of their fellow Hall of Famers displayed greatness throughout their careers, some of those names surrounding the new inductees carried a deeper, personal connection.

“Me and Mariano were talking yesterday,” Jeter said of his longtime teammate Mariano Rivera. “We got sent down on the same day in 1995 and we're in Bennigan's almost in tears saying that we're going to get back to the Major Leagues at some point. Now our plaques are right next to each other in the Hall of Fame. That's really special.”

For Walker, seeing Ferguson Jenkins’ plaque hanging just a few steps away from his own gave him a sense of pride for being the second Canadian-born player to enter the Hall.

“If I look around the corner, I get to see the other Canadian that's in there,” Walker said. “That's a proud thing for our country.”

Although Hall of Fame résumés consist mostly of individual accomplishments, all three inductees spoke about their experiences playing in the World Series, the ultimate peak for a big leaguer on a team level.

Simmons appeared in one Fall Classic, his Brewers taking the Cardinals to seven games in a memorable 1982 World Series. Milwaukee was one win from a title before a lopsided Game 6 win by St. Louis forced a decisive Game 7.

“That's what it boiled down to, the seventh game of the World Series,” Simmons said. “It was the sixth inning and the Brewers were ahead of the Cardinals, I think it was 3-1. If we win tonight, it's all ours. I was warming up [Pete] Vuckovich, we’re ahead, 3-1, and I remember this and I'll never, ever forget it. I said to myself, we're going to win. I actually said that consciously in my mind, because with my whole heart and soul, I thought we were going to win. And we got beat. That moment is the biggest moment in my professional life. I said, ‘I think we’re going to win.’ And we didn’t.”

Like Simmons, Walker retired having come up short in his one World Series appearance, though Walker hit .357 with two home runs as his 2004 Cardinals were swept in four games by the Red Sox.

“It’s hard to find a really great memory when you don’t win a game,” Walker said. “I had a good first game, first time playing a game in the World Series, and I remember doing the interviews after the game. People asked how it felt and everything and were you nervous? I said I wasn't nervous; I was excited.”

That was true during the game, anyway. Walker revealed that the pregame festivities presented a different challenge.

“I was a little nervous when we were standing out on the line; I was batting second, so it's Tony La Russa, [Edgar Renteria] and then me,” Walker said. “The anthem got sung by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and I'm a big rock n’ roll guy, so I was just standing there thinking I’m nervous right now. This game is easy, but standing next to Steven was a problem.”

Jeter took part in seven World Series as a player, winning five rings with the Yankees. He pointed to the 1996 World Series -- his first -- as “special,” though he admitted that when he thinks back on the Octobers of his career, it’s the ones in which he and the Yankees fell short that stand out in his ultra-competitive mind.

“I feel bad saying it, but I think about the times in my mind we should have won,” Jeter said. “I think that's what drives you. You had a Series in ‘01 against Arizona; every team that loses says, ‘Oh, we should have won.’ They beat us, they deserved to win.”

When Gammons noted that the 2001 World Series was “tough,” Jeter agreed.

“It was,” Jeter said with a grin. “And we don't have to talk about it.”

The three plaques will hang in the gallery forever, but what will each of this year’s inductees display in their home to commemorate this week?

“The miniature plaque,” Jeter said. “I may just carry it around with me.”

Walker joked of his new Hall of Fame ring, “I'm not sure when this thing's coming off my finger.” Simmons agreed that the ring was his choice, though he doesn’t plan on wearing it much.

“I was thinking of that; put it in a box, put it in a nice little place where every now and then I can walk right by,” said Simmons, who fell off the BBWAA ballot in 1994 (his first year of eligibility) before ultimately being elected by the Modern Baseball Era Committee. “I'm afraid if I put it on, I’m going to damage that thing. It took too long [to get].”