COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Derek Jeter was simply Derek Jeter on his special day — smooth as silk.
On a cloudy Wednesday afternoon with the temperature in the 70s and a few sprinkles in the air, the former New York Yankees star shortstop and captain was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after a long wait necessitated by the pandemic.
Greeted by raucous cheers in a crowd that included NBA luminaries Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, several of his former teammates, and Hall of Fame Yankees manager Joe Torre on the stage behind him, Jeter took the stage after fellow inductees from the class of 2020 Ted Simmons, Larry Walker and the late Marvin Miller were honored. Jeter was touched by the moment and acknowledged how different the ceremony seemed in the wake of the recent deaths of 10 Hall of Famers.
“I’m so honored to be inducted with you guys and linked to you forever,” he said. “The Hall of Fame is special because of those who are in it.”
What was the same was the adoration displayed by the fans, who always marveled at his consistency.
“I had one goal in my career, and that was to win more than everyone else, and we did that, which brings me to the Yankee fans,” Jeter said as the fans erupted again. “Without question, you helped me get here today as much as any individual I’ve mentioned.”
He gave much of the credit to his parents, who were in the audience with Jeter’s wife, Hannah, and their two young daughters.
“Mom, you taught me any dream is attainable as long as you work harder than everyone else. You drilled that in my head over and over and over and you led me to believe it,” Jeter said. “You told me never to make excuses, you wouldn’t allow me to use the word can’t. Dad, you’ve been the voice of reason. You taught me to be patient, to listen and think before I speak. You’ve always been there for advice and to this day you’re the first person I go to.”
The ceremony was delayed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic and it didn’t matter much to Walker, the second Canadian elected to the Hall of Fame. He gave up hockey when he was 16 to focus on baseball. He was selected in his 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot after a stellar career with Montreal, Colorado and St. Louis that inluded 383 homers and three batting titles.
“It’s taken a little longer to reach this day (but) for all your support I’ve received throughout the years from my home country, I share this honor with every Canadian,” said Walker, who retired in 2005.
The 72-year-old Simmons, who starred in a 21-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee and Atlanta, punctuated his speech to thank four pioneers of free agency — Curt Flood, Catfish Hunter, Andy Messersmith, and Marvin Miller — “who changed the lives of every player on this stage today by pushing the boundaries of player rights.”
“Marvin Miller made so much possible for every major league player from my era to the present and the future,” the former catcher said. “I could not be more proud to enter this great hall with this great man. Even though my path has been on the longer side, I wouldn’t change a thing. However we get here none of us arrives alone. I’m no exception.”
Miller, who transformed baseball on the labor front by building a strong players union and led the charge for free agency in the mid-1970s, was honored posthumously. Four years before he died at 95 in 2012, Miller respectfully asked to be removed from consideration for the Hall of Fame after being passed over several times.