Derek Jeter was among the tens of thousands hanging on Mariano Rivera’s words as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s first unanimous inductee appeared in Cooperstown, N.Y., last July, and as the longtime Yankees teammates shared that moment in the sun, there was every reason to believe that a similar speech would be heard this summer.
Instead, the revelry for Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker must wait until 2021. The Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday that its Board of Directors voted unanimously to cancel 2020 Induction Weekend events as a result of health and safety concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Induction Weekend is a celebration of our National Pastime and its greatest legends, and while we are disappointed to cancel this incredibly special event, the Board of Directors’ overriding concern is the health and well-being of our new inductees, our Hall of Fame members, our wonderful fans and the hundreds of staff it takes to present the weekend’s events in all of its many facets,” said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “We care deeply about every single person who visits Cooperstown.”
The Hall of Fame remains closed to the public. Under normal circumstances, Cooperstown’s picturesque Main Street and the surrounding areas are packed with visitors from around the world for the weekend festival, as it surely would have once again. An estimated crowd of 55,000 assembled last year to celebrate the careers of Rivera, Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina and Lee Smith.
The Class of 2020 is now scheduled to be inducted alongside their Class of 2021 brethren on July 25, 2021. An awards presentation held the day prior will recognize the Hall of Fame’s 2020 and 2021 Awards, including 2020 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Nick Cafardo, 2020 Ford C. Frick Award winner Hawk Harrelson and the winner of the 2020 Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, David Montgomery.
“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. “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.”
Added Walker: “I fully understand and agree with the Board’s decision. It is most important to do the right thing for everybody involved, and that means not putting any participants in jeopardy, whether Hall of Famers or visitors. I realize how serious this situation has become and how many lives have been lost.”
Simmons said that pushing the ceremony to 2021 was “the appropriate decision.”
“It’s clear that cancelling this year’s induction ceremony was the appropriate decision,” Simmons said. “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.”
Harrelson, the longtime White Sox broadcaster who retired after the 2018 season, agreed.
“This was absolutely the right decision," he said in a statement. "Everyone’s safety -- the fans, the Hall of Famers, their families and friends -- is the most important concern. We all need to stay safe and healthy. I do feel badly for the people of Cooperstown and the staff at the Hall of Fame because of what the weekend means to the area, but we all will have fun in July 2021 when we all can join together safely to celebrate two classes on induction weekend.”
According to the Hall of Fame, this will be the first summer that an induction ceremony has not been held in Cooperstown since 1960. No ceremonies were held in 1950, ’58 and ’60 after voting resulted in no new electees, while no elections were held in 1940, ’41 and ’43. In 1942, Rogers Hornsby was elected but an induction ceremony was not held due to travel restrictions related to World War II.
Next summer’s ceremony will be the first since 1949 to combine multiple classes of electees. The first four Classes of Hall of Fame members, elected from 1936-39, were all enshrined on June 12, 1939, the day of the museum’s formal opening. The Classes of 1946 and 1947 were inducted together in ’47, and the Classes of 1948 and 1949 were inducted together in ’49.