Cooperstown will be more like a ghost town this summer.
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced the inevitable on Wednesday — that its 2020 induction ceremony has been canceled. There will be a combination induction ceremony next year, for the classes of 2020 and 2021.
This year's Hall of Fame class includes two Michigan men: Kalamazoo's Derek Jeter, the legendary New York Yankees shortstop who missed unanimous election by a single vote, and Southfield native Ted Simmons, the longtime catcher who was elected by the veterans committee.
Induction weekend was scheduled for July 24-26. It now will be July 23-26, 2021.
“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,” Jane Forbes Clark, chair of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement.
“We care deeply about every single person who visits Cooperstown.”
Tens of thousands of flock to Cooperstown in upstate New York every summer, with the tourism city's peak always induction weekend.
New York has been the state hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a hold on large gatherings in public throughout the world.
The induction ceremony is held annually on the lawn behind Clark Sports Center. The largest crowd was in 2007, when 82,000 fans attended the induction of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. This summer's ceremony was certain to shatter that record, given Jeter's place on the stage.
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame will be an incredible honor, but the health and safety of everyone involved are paramount,” Jeter said, also 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.”
Jeter's last Hall of Fame induction was the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, in which he was officially inducted in 2016. Coincidentally, that induction also came a year later, after plane issues forced him to miss his original date in 2015.
Simmons also issued a statement.
“It’s clear that canceling this year’s Induction Ceremony was the appropriate decision,” he 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.”
Jeter, 45, played 20 seasons with the Yankees, all as the starting shortstop, winning five World Series and collecting 3,465 hits — all after the team made him the No. 6 overall pick in the 1992 MLB Draft out of Kalamazoo Central High School. He passed on a scholarship to Michigan to sign with the Yankees.
Simmons, 70, played 21 seasons, mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, while also spending time with the Atlanta Braves. He was among the best-hitting catchers of his era, with 248 home runs and 1,389 RBIs. The Cardinals drafted him 10th overall in 1967 out of Southfield High School, and he signed instead of attending Michigan — though he attended Michigan and Wayne State during offseasons.
Simmons also is a member of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2012.
The 2020 Hall of Fame class also includes Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies star Larry Walker and Marvin Miller, the late union chief who's largely credited with players enjoying the riches they do today. Longtime White Sox announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson was set to receive the Ford C. Frick Award, and late Boston Globe beat writer Nick Cafardo the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.
“Most importantly, (this will) maintain the integrity of the process and honoring the inductees in the proper way they are most deserving of,” said Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, a member of the Hall's board of directors.
This will be the first time there will be no Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony since nobody was elected in 1960. This year's cancellation could cost Cooperstown tens of millions in economic activity. And that's just factoring in induction weekend. The whole town, with its themed shops and restaurants, revolves around baseball, anchored by the Hall of Fame, but also with its always-sold-out weekly youth baseball tournaments at Dreams Park.
Next year's class might not add much to this year's. There are no likely first-ballot inductees coming in 2021. Curt Schilling was closest to election this year among those who didn't make it, but his polarizing persona doesn't guarantee him election in 2021. Next-closest were Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, who aren't making much progress year over year, because of steroid suspicions.