This week, former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame alongside Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies and Ted Simmons of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The three players had been selected for the 2020 Hall of Fame class, but last year’s ceremony was postponed due to the pandemic.
With plenty of fans and sports stars in attendance, plus increased anticipation due to the event’s year-long delay, there was much excitement surrounding this Hall of Fame induction.
Whether you follow Major League Baseball religiously or you’re a casual fan, it may have also gotten you thinking about how players become Hall of Famers in the first place.
Here’s a closer look at how the committee makes its selections as well as some of the most important moments in National Baseball Hall of Fame history.
How long does a baseball player have to wait to be eligible for the Hall of Fame?
Candidates for the National Baseball Hall of Fame have to meet four eligibility requirements:
- Played at least 10 seasons in the MLB
- Active MLB player within the last 15 years
- Retired from baseball for a minimum of five full seasons
- Not on the ineligible list/banned from the MLB
Derek Jeter was elected in his first year of eligibility (2020), which was after five full seasons following his last game in 2014.
Had he not been elected, he could have been reconsidered annually for a maximum of 10 years (until 15 years after his retirement).
Special circumstances are applied if a player dies before his fifth year after retiring from the sport.
A deceased player who meets other eligibility requirements may be added to the ballot at the next election that occurs at least six months following their death.
There is also a Veterans Committee composed of living Hall of Famers who can vote on inducting players that have passed the 15-year mark since retirement, which is how Ted Simmons was elected for the 2020 class (he last played in 1988).
Who votes for the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Yearly elections for the Baseball Hall of Fame are held by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).
The BBWAA has a screening committee of six members which prepares the ballot each year.
Names are placed on the ballot if they fit into one of the following categories:
- Received at least 5% of the votes in the previous election and are still eligible
- Are eligible for the first time and nominated by at least two screening committee members
From there, the ballot goes to the full body of electors, which consists of BBWAA members who have been active baseball writers for 10 years or more.
Electors can vote for up to 10 candidates from the ballot. If a candidate gets at least 75% of the votes, they are elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
For the 2020 class, there were 397 ballots submitted. Jeter, a 14-time All-Star, famously received votes from all but one of the electors, giving him 99.7% of the vote, the second highest percentage in MLB history.
The overwhelming support for his induction came as no surprise considering his impressive record, which includes being the Yankees’ all-time career leader in hits and racking up 260 home runs and five World Series championships.
Where to watch the Hall of Fame induction
Induction events take place in Cooperstown, New York, the location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Clark Sports Center hosts the induction ceremony, where each inductee traditionally gives a speech and special remembrance is paid to any Hall of Famers who may have passed during the previous year.
On most occasions, a number of previous inductees attend the ceremony in Cooperstown. This year, 31 Hall of Famers made an appearance, including Mariano Rivera, Reggie Jackson, and Dave Winfield.
Other sports stars may make appearances as well. This year, for example, former basketball pros Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing were in attendance.
Fans may also attend in person or watch a live broadcast, which is typically aired on the MLB Network.
Historic moments in Baseball Hall of Fame history
Over the years, there have been a number of standout events in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s history. Below are some of the most memorable moments along with frequently asked questions about the Hall of Fame.
When did baseball Hall of Fame start?
The first election for Hall of Fame inductees was held in 1936.
However, the first induction ceremony wasn’t held until 1939 when the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown was complete.
Who created the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Stephen Carlton Clark was the founder of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He also funded the construction of the museum in his hometown of Cooperstown.
Currently, Jane Forbes Clark, Stephen Clark’s granddaughter, is the chairwoman of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors.
Who were the first players elected to the Hall of Fame?
The first players inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 were:
- Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers
- Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees
- Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants
- Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators
- Honus Wagner of the Pittsburgh Pirates
What year did the first African American player get inducted?
Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers was the first African American player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
He was elected in 1962, his first year of eligibility, with 77.5% of the vote.
In 1971, Satchel Paige was the first Negro League player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Of the 35 Negro League Hall of Famers, 29 were inducted posthumously.
How many players are currently in the Hall of Fame?
Including the additions from the 2020 class, there are now 263 former major league players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
What percentage of baseball players are in the Hall of Fame?
Since the establishment of Major League Baseball in 1869, there have been over 19,000 players. Of those, just 263 have been elected to the Hall of Fame, representing only about 1.4 percent of all players.
Do players choose one team to be inducted under?
Inductees are assigned a primary team to determine the cap logo displayed on their Hall of Fame plaque.
The primary team used to be chosen by the player, but today, the Hall of Fame works with each inductee to determine which team should be prominent in their display.
For those who played for more than one team, that’s usually the team where they had the biggest impact or most notable achievements. Some have chosen to opt out of choosing a primary team altogether.
Which team has the most Hall of Famers in the MLB?
The New York Yankees have the most players in the Hall of Fame with a total of 21.
The team’s list of inductees includes some of the biggest names in baseball history, including Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle.
These include the players who have designated the Yankees as their primary team. Other inductees have played for the Yankees at some point or have chosen to forgo choosing a primary team for their Hall of Fame display.
It’s also worth noting that some primary teams in the Hall of Fame were very short-lived or no longer exist, which means they are likely to have fewer inductees.
For example, Cy Young was inducted under the National League’s Cleveland Spiders; George Sisler for the St. Louis Browns, and Roy Campanella for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
What position has the most Hall of Famers in baseball?
There are 83 pitchers in the Hall of Fame, more than any other position in baseball. The next closest positions are right fielders (26) and shortstops (26).
Who is eligible for Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021?
There were 25 players included on the ballot for 2021. However, none of them received at least 75% of the votes, so there is no Hall of Fame class for this year.
The players to come closest to induction were Curt Schilling (71.1%), Barry Bonds (61.8%), and Roger Clemens (61.6%). Each of these players has one more year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.
Who has been banned from baseball?
Any player who has been banned from the MLB is ineligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A couple notable examples are “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and Pete Rose.
Has there ever been unanimous Baseball Hall of Famers election?
Yes. The only player ever inducted with 100% of the vote was Mariano Rivera who, coincidentally, is a former teammate of Jeter’s who also spent his entire career with the New York Yankees.
Rivera was inducted in 2019 in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.
Are non-players ever inducted into the Hall of Fame?
Yes. As of 2021, there are 38 executives/pioneers, 22 managers, and 10 umpires in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
This year, Marvin Miller was inducted posthumously. Miller was the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and contributed to the formation of the players’ union.