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Welcome to Cooperstown: Derek Jeter headlines class set to enter Baseball Hall of Fame

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At long last, the 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame class headlined by Derek Jeter will be inducted on Wednesday in Cooperstown after a pandemic delay of more than 14 months.

Jeter will have his plaque unveiled alongside Colorado Rockies icon Larry Walker and veteran’s committee selectees Ted Simmons, the longtime St. Louis Cardinals catcher, and Marvin Miller, the groundbreaking labor leader.

They were all originally slated for induction in July 2020 before COVID-19 halted the gathering. A class of 2021 inductees would have joined them, but there were no Hall of Famers elected in the most recent cycle

The ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. ET. It will be aired live on MLB Network and MLB.com.

Here’s what you need to know about the incoming Hall of Famers.

Derek Jeter

Maybe you’ve heard of him? The avatar of the New York Yankees’ late 1990s and early 2000s dominance, Jeter is one of the 10 best shortstops to play the game. And that’s just based on his regular season statistical record, before you factor in the all-time record 158 postseason games, the five World Series rings, or the iconic plays he made in the course of all that.

The Hall of Fame résumé: A 14-time All-Star, the Yankees captain amassed 3,465 hits and a .310 lifetime batting average. He twice led MLB in hits, once at age 25 and again at age 38. His greatness was found in laser-guided consistency more than historic single-season performances. He batted .300 or better in 12 different seasons. His 71.3 WAR ranks fifth among shortstops since integration.

The moment: Take your pick, but 20 years ago next month, he made the play that most exemplified his uncanny ability to find the spotlight and excel.

Larry Walker

Among the most gifted hitters of his generation, Walker was a candidate who took all 10 years on the ballot to win entry into Cooperstown. The Canadian slugger starred with the Montreal Expos, and then became one of the faces of the Colorado Rockies franchise. He made it to the Hall by six votes.

The Hall of Fame résumé: How good was Walker? He’s one of only 19 hitters since 1947 to finish his career with at least 5,000 plate appearances and a .400 on-base percentage. Playing in the hitter-friendly environs of Coors Field, the lefty put up video game numbers in a post-30 peak that spanned from 1997 to 2002. He blasted 49 homers in that 1997 season en route to NL MVP honors.

The moment: Beyond all the offensive production and highlights, Walker has always been known for his open-hearted spirit and sense of humor. At the 1997 All-Star Game, he delivered an incredible visual when he turned around to bat right-handed against soon-to-be fellow Hall of Famer Randy Johnson.

Ted Simmons

A switch-hitting backstop who starred mostly for the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, Simmons is among the most accomplished hitters to don the tools of ignorance. As FanGraphs’ Jay Jaffe explained, his case for Cooperstown was overlooked for many years — perhaps because he was a great offensive catcher in an era of great offensive catchers. Even on his own team, Simmons’ arrival in the majors forced Joe Torre to third base, where he immediately had an MVP-winning season. Eventually, Simmons’ historic production was recognized by the latest iteration of the veterans’ committee. In the days following his election, Simmons credited the sabermetric community for highlighting his candidacy.

The Hall of Fame résumé: Simmons’ 248 homers are 14th among catchers since integration and his 1,389 RBIs are second only to Yogi Berra.

The moment: When Whitey Herzog took over the St. Louis Cardinals in 1980, he pushed to move Simmons out from behind the plate because of his lack of success cutting down base stealers. Simmons bristled and over the winter he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in a blockbuster that also included Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich. In 1982, when the trade partners collided in the World Series, Simmons took his old club deep in Game 1.

Marvin Miller

Miller was a labor leader who helmed the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 to 1982. The sports world as you know and follow it today is largely a product of his work. He spearheaded a fight to end the reserve clause that tied MLB players to their teams forever, and in 1975 won free agency for baseball players. The development dramatically altered MLB and then the entire professional sports landscape.

A singular and defining force in the history of sports’ labor unions, Miller — who died in 2012 — encouraged athletes to fight for their stake in the riches created on the back of their talents. Donald Fehr, who worked alongside Miller at the MLBPA and later took the executive director role himself, will speak on Miller’s behalf at the ceremony.

CIRCA 1970'S: Executive Director Marvin Miller of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) circa mid 1970's hold a press conference. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
In the 1970s, Marvin Miller led the Major League Baseball Players Association in an ultimately successful fight for free agency that revolutionized professional sports. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Miller lamented his exclusion from the Hall of Fame late in his life, as the business of baseball boomed thanks in large part to the seismic changes he forced upon the team owners who demonized him.

“There’s been a concerted attempt to downplay the union,” Miller told the New York Times in 2010. “It’s been about trying to rewrite history rather than record it. They decided a long time ago that they would downgrade any impact the union has had. And part of that plan was to keep me out of it.”

In many ways, Miller is the most impactful figure to join Cooperstown's supposed shrine to baseball history in years. Broadcaster Red Barber placed him among the sport’s three most transformative figures — a sentiment Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson recently echoed.

“There’s only been three people in the history of the game to change the game,” he told The Athletic. “And that was Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Marvin Miller.”

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