Baseball Hall of Fame 2020

Photo by David A. Avila

Baseball Hall of Fame New Members 2020


By David A. Avila

Four were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame including one of the sport’s most recognized icons of the past 20 years, and another hailing from Canada.

Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and negotiator Marvin Miller were voted into the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame it was announced on Tuesday.

Derek Jeter

New York Yankee shortstop Jeter lacked one vote to make it unanimous for only the second time as one baseball writer left him off the ballot. But none could truly deny the tall shortstop was the most recognized and coveted player in the game. When it came down to clutch performances, no one was better.

Jeter may not have displayed the razzle dazzle of an Ozzie Smith or the hitting power of Cal Ripken, but his ability to make the great play when it counted, or connect for a hit at a crucial moment, those traits separated him from all players during his playing days.

Former Yankee manager Joe Torre said that if the bases were loaded in the ninth inning of the seventh game of a World Series he wanted the ball to be hit to Jeter. And if the Yankees had the bases loaded in the ninth and they were at bat, he would want Jeter to be the batter. That explains in one sentence the value of Jeter.

The player from Michigan was a clutch player from the moment he began his pro career in 1996 until he retired. Along the way he led the Yankee organization to five World Series titles. The Yankee team in 1998 might be one of the strongest ever assembled and Jeter led the way as the Yankees swept through three playoff series including a sweep of the San Diego Padres in the World Series. The team lost only two games total in the three playoffs.

Though Jeter never won a Most Valuable Player award he was perhaps the best player in his era and one of the most instinctual and skilled to ever play the game in this writer’s opinion.

Jeter seldom spoke out and was very reserved with the media during interviews, but he had a courteous and to-the-point way of answering questions. He also possessed an aura of greatness yet humility about him that made him the natural leader for his team comprised of super stars and multi-millionaires.

After his introduction to the media on Wednesday, Jeter was perhaps the most joyful any media familiar with him had ever seen.

“I never took this for granted. I just don’t know what to say. It’s an emotional time, it’s a time of reflection. A lot of hard work over a number of years have gone into this. It’s the highest honor,” said while being introduced to the media on MLB Network.

Larry Walker

Walker, a native Canadian who primarily played right field for the Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies, became only the second Canuck to be voted in. He follows pitcher Ferguson Jenkins who was inducted in 1991.

It was Walker’s last year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame and when the phone call finally arrived to confirm his award, it was a moment filled with emotion.

“Once that phone call happened, the tears that came out, the joy; when I went to bed last night, I’d never realized how mentally tired I was,” said Walker who will represent the Rockies in the Hall of Fame due to his 10 years with the club. “But I couldn’t sleep because everything was still spinning around with the happiness involved.”

The Canadian-born ball player never actually played baseball as a youth until his late teens. After years in the minor leagues when he finally arrived with the big boys the left-handed player displayed uncanny speed, power and hitting ability.

In 1997 he was voted the Most Valuable Player in the National League in the beginning of a three-year run where he hit at least .360 batting average. He also won three batting titles in his 17-year career that began in 1989 with Montreal.

Many in Canada claim he remains a beacon of hope for aspiring baseball players in that country.

“I didn’t play high school baseball growing up,” Walker said. “When you’re born in Canada, you come into the world with a hockey stick and skates on. That’s what you do. Baseball is something I never really did. I played more softball than I did baseball growing up.”

His accomplishments are truly amazing considering he rarely played baseball growing up. Even Jeter was amazed when he heard Walker reminisce.

“That’s a true Hall of Famer,” Jeter said. “He didn’t even have to play the game to make it (to the Hall of Fame). He didn’t even play baseball growing up.”

Ted Simmons

The former catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves was a hard-nose player known for being scrappy at the plate. Early in his career he would wear his hair long and the sight of him behind the plate with flowing locks was emblematic of his character. He did things his way and was considered one of the top catchers during an era when Johnny Bench was considered the best.

Simmons could run very well and hit even better, but he never displayed the pure power of Bench. But his mechanics around the plate were just as good and he was always a clutch hitter until he retired.

While playing for the Cardinals he led the team in runs batted in for six consecutive years between 1972 and 1978. He was selected to the All Stars eight times during his career.

Marvin Miller

If not for Marvin Miller and his battles against the Major League hierarchy in the late 1970s there would be no free agency.

Miller negotiated for the Major League Players Player’s Association and helped establish free agency for the players. It was a long struggle to finally end the Reserve Clause that had kept baseball players virtually slaves to the owners for over 100 years.

The New York-born Miller worked with the MLBPA from 1966 to 1985. Under Miller’s guidance the average pay for MLB players rose from $19,000 to $326,000. The victory by baseball players for free agency rights led to all professional sports leagues implementing similar measures.

All professional sports athletes should bow down when they hear his name mentioned.

Miller died in 2012 at age 95.