Last summer, the Baseball Hall of Fame cancelled its annual ceremony for the first time since 1960, but it wasn't due to having no one to honor. No, it was the COVID-19 pandemic, which still rages on and is now affecting the 2021 ceremony as well.
The Hall of Fame on Friday announced that there will be a ceremony, but it's not going to be what we've grown used to seeing for decades.
"The Hall of Fame is maintaining its commitment to hold an Induction Ceremony on July 25," Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. "We had hoped to be in a position to welcome loyal baseball fans back to Cooperstown for Induction Weekend, but with the continuing uncertainties created by COVID-19, the Board of Directors has decided not to hold Induction Weekend ceremonies at the traditional Clark Sports Center location. We have prepared alternative plans to conduct our annual Awards Presentation and Induction Ceremony as television events taking place indoors and adhering to all of the required New York State guidelines."
The Clark Sports Center has been hosting the induction ceremonies since 1992. Crowds are generally allowed in the lawn area to watch and listen, unticketed and free. Per the Hall of Fame, five of the last six ceremonies have drawn crowds of at least 50,000 people for five of the last six ceremonies.
The last ceremony happened in July of 2019. The player induction class was Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Harold Baines and the late Roy Halladay. It drew an estimated crowd of 55,000 people, the second-highest ever, according to the Hall of Fame's press release.
That matters here because it really seems like this class was also going to make its mark. Sure, there was an empty class for 2021, but the 2020 honorees are set to get their day this summer. The class includes Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller.
Jeter especially was going to draw a huge crowd of Yankees fans to Cooperstown, New York. Montreal isn't too far away and some Expos fans would surely have made the trek for Walker. That's in addition to the normal fanfare Hall of Famers like Simmons and Miller would draw -- and let's not forget about Jeter's Michigan ties or Walker being the first Rockies player ever inducted.
The big impact here is on the local economy in Cooperstown. We're talking about around 50,000 people who were likely to be flowing into the city for the weekend if there wasn't a pandemic impact. Instead, it will be a televised event.
As far as the TV thing goes, the best guess is it'll wind up being a lot more fun for viewers from home than usual. That's just the way productions go these days. It's a real shame for the people and businesses of Cooperstown, though, and, frankly, for Walker, Jeter and Simmons to not get their chance at the parade of legends and other events that bring great fanfare to the immortals of the game.