A sudden splash of rain could not dampen Derek Jeter’s perfect moment in Cooperstown as he was officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon.
Equally spot-on were the first words upon the legendary shortstop’s plaque: “Heartbeat of a Yankees dynasty.”
Five World Series titles, 3,465 hits, iconic plays, countless postseason records, and 20 years of becoming an indelible name within Yankees lore.
“There’s only one thing in my life that I wanted to be, that was shortstop for the New York Yankees,” Jeter said. “And now I’ll be a Yankee forever.”
All in all, a most wonderful setting to once again provide another sliver of normalcy — one that was long overdue — to get baseball back on track after a most challenging of two years.
Since the last induction ceremony two years ago in July of 2019, baseball lost 10 Hall of Famers: Tom Seaver, Whitey Ford, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Joe Morgan, Al Kaline, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, and Tommy Lasorda.
“The last two years have been extraordinarily sad for the baseball world,” Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said. “The Hall of Fame family has lost 10 of our members — men who embodied the qualities of character, integrity, sportsmanship, and who loved being here in Cooperstown with you and their Hall of Fame family.”
“It’s really hard to imagine that we lost 10 members of the Hall of Fame family, the baseball family,” former Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Guys who were not only legends of the game but very, very special individuals. They were dear friends … guys we all had the utmost respect for.”
It was with that backdrop that Jeter — the greatest Yankee of the 21st century — along with Larry Walker, Ted Simmons, and famed labor leader Marvin Miller, gained entry into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.
Jeter came up one vote short of being unanimously elected into the Hall as a member of the Class of 2020, the only class honored Wednesday as the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) opted not to elect any player this year.
“Thank you to the baseball writers, all but one of you, who voted for me,” Jeter slyly said.
He received the most boisterous and lengthy ovation of the afternoon, overcome by the appreciation of a strong traveling contingent of Yankees fans.
“I forgot how good that feels,” he said of the fans’ reception. “I wanted to prove to you I belong, you kept pushing me to prove it over and over again.
“I was most comfortable on the field, playing in Yankee Stadium in front of you. I wanted you to count on me … And it was one of the greatest responsibilities of my life.
Upon the thousands of supporters including Jeter’s family, NBA legend Michael Jordan, and Knicks all-timer Patrick Ewing were the living members of the Hall of Fame who sat behind him — a domineering presence throughout his career.
“It’s more than a game in a sense,” Jeter said when recounting two unforgettable meetings with Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and one of the greatest of all-time, Hank Aaron. “The Hall of Fame family is watching and I wanted their approval. I wanted Rachel Robinson to be proud, I wanted to make Hank Aaron proud, and all of you behind me.”
Jeter’s baseball journey is far from over as he continues the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding the Miami Marlins as the team’s owner.
“I was and am going to prove doubters wrong,” Jeter said. “That still drives me today.”