Class of 2020 savors their induction experience
In speeches crafted over two years time, heartfelt messages were relayed, thanks were offered to those who helped throughout the journey and a deep appreciation for the game was conveyed.
Despite some ominous weather forecasts throughout the week, when the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony began Sept. 8 it was greeted with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. In other words, perfect baseball weather.
And seeing their bronze likenesses on a stage erected outside the Clark Sports Center – about a mile south of the Hall of Fame – for the first time were members of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020: legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, five-tool outfielder Larry Walker and catcher extraordinaire Ted Simmons. A fourth member of the Class of 2020, longtime union leader Marvin Miller, passed away at the age of 95 on Nov. 27, 2012.
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After snapping a few photos of the crowd from behind the podium, Walker, 54, mentioned a unique connection with a fellow Hall of Famer sitting behind him.
“A couple of years ago I fell short in the voting. I don't do much on social media, but I did one of those hashtag things on Twitter and it read #FergieNeedsAFriend,” Walker said. “I was, of course, referring to Ferguson Jenkins, the only Canadian in Cooperstown. Today I finally get to join Fergie as the second Canadian in the Hall of Fame and the first Canadian position player. Fergie, it's an honor.”
The native of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, finished by saying he’d never considered himself a Hall of Famer at anything.
“Not a thing. I honestly see myself as an average guy and I'm good with average. I've lived my life trying to never get too high and never get too low,” he said. “But to stand on the stage right now and tell you that I'm feeling average would be a complete lie. My feet have not touched the ground all day.
“And I'll say this again: This honor really doesn't happen without every single one of my teammates. Doesn't happen without any of them. And in my eyes every one of your names are on that plaque as well. I'm truly honored humbled to be part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It is a privilege to be part of this family right here.”
Former Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Don Fehr spoke about Miller, the pioneering baseball labor leader who revolutionized the sport as executive director for the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 to 1982.
By creating a culture of solidarity and empowering players on their rights as workers, Miller would be at the forefront of one of the most successful unions in the history of American labor. While he most famously help dismantle the reserve clause which brought the dawn of free agency, his successful tenure also included the game’s first collective bargaining agreement, which had the first rise in the minimum salary in a decade, and salary arbitration. By the time Miller retired, the average salary of a big leaguer increased almost 10 times from when he took over.
“It’s because of Marvin’s leadership the union became a symbol of what could be accomplished and the good that could be done,” Fehr said. “It was hard to find unions who reached that goal most of the last several decades. And that is why 39 years after he retired his name is still on the forefront.
“Last of all, the players I had the privilege to represent, on behalf of them, and I know I speak for everyone behind me, I want to say thank you, Marvin. Baseball was not the same after your 10 years as it was before. It was and is much better for everyone. You brought out the best of us. And you did us proud.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2022 Induction Weekend will take place July 22-25, with the Induction Ceremony scheduled for Sunday, July 24.
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum