The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that it has canceled the July 26 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, the 2020 class will be included at next year's induction festivities — along with any additional new choices — on July 25, 2021.
A record crowd of more than 70,000 had been expected this summer in an outdoor field at the small town in upstate New York to honor Derek Jeter, the former New York Yankees captain who came within one vote of unanimous election by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in January.
Jeter was to be inducted with Canadian slugger Larry Walker, catcher Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller, the pioneering players' union head who negotiated free agency and transformed the sport.
"Being inducted into the Hall of Fame will be an incredible honor, but the health and safety of everyone involved are paramount," Jeter said in a statement released by the Hall of Fame.
"I respect and support the decision to postpone this year's enshrinement and am looking forward to joining current Hall of Famers, fans, staff and my family and friends in Cooperstown in 2021."
This will be the first year without an induction ceremony since 1960.
"It was a very difficult decision, but with so many unknowns facing the world, the board felt strongly that this was the right decision," said Joe Morgan, a Hall of Fame member and vice chairman of the shrine's board.
Record attendance for an induction ceremony was set in 2007, exceeding 70,000 when Cal Ripken Jr. and the late Tony Gwynn were enshrined. Cooperstown is within easy driving distance of the New York metro area, and loads of Yankees fans had already made their plans to see Jeter inducted.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum closed at the end of the day on March 15 due to the virus outbreak.
Jeter, now the CEO of the Miami Marlins, and Walker were elected by member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Miller and Simmons were chosen in December by the Hall's Modern Era Committee.
"I fully understand and agree with the board's decision," Walker said in a statement released by the Hall of Fame. "It is most important to do the right thing for everybody involved, and that means not putting any participants in jeopardy."
Simmons echoed that view: "I commend the board for making this decision under these difficult circumstances, particularly in New York, a state severely hit by the pandemic. This was the wisest and smartest thing to do, given the existing environment and the danger that this pandemic presents."
Also to be honored during next year's Hall induction weekend: 2020 Ford C. Frick Award winner Hawk Harrelson, 2020 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Nick Cafardo and David Montgomery, the winner of the 2020 Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jeter, a key to five World Series titles, was on 396 of 397 ballots in voting announced Jan. 21. The only player ever with a higher percentage was former Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera, who became the first unanimous pick in 2019. Walker, making his 10th ballot appearance, got 304 votes, six over the threshold.
Next year's first-time eligible players have no odds-on favorites: Mark Buehrle and Torii Hunter are among the players who will be on the BBWAA ballot for the first time.
Holdovers include Curt Schilling, who fell 20 votes short this year, and performance enhancer-tainted stars Roger Clemens (56 shy) and Barry Bonds (57). All three will be on the ballot for the ninth time, one shy of the limit.
If anyone new is elected, it would be the first ceremony since 1949 to combine multiple classes.
The first four classes were inducted jointly in 1939 on the day the Hall of Fame opened. The classes of 1946 and the following year were inducted together, as were the classes of 1948 and the following year.
Rogers Hornsby was elected in 1942, but there was no induction ceremony because of travel restrictions during World War II.
There was no balloting in 1940, '41 and '43. No ceremony was held in 1950, '58 and '60 after no one was elected.
Since Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner became the original Hall of Fame class in 1936, the only previous years with no inductions were 1940, '41, '43, '50, '52, '58 and '60.
Some MLB clubs offer refunds
A day after Major League Baseball told clubs they could decide their own ticket refund policies, several did Wednesday.
The Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals announced policies for games not played through May because of the virus outbreak, with some teams offering plans for cash returns and bonus credit.
The Minnesota Twins will credit season ticket holders for missed games, plus give an additional 15% credit of that amount to be used for 2020 or 2021 purchases.
The Cleveland Indians said fans who had tickets for home games in March and/or April could receive a 10% bonus credit for a game later in 2020 or 2021. The Red Sox extended a similar bonus credit to season ticket holders.
"As we continue to evaluate possibilities for the 2020 season, it's important that we provide options to our ticket buyers for games scheduled in April and May," Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said in a release.
"We appreciate how patient our fans have been as we worked through the implications of the pandemic on our schedule," he said.
The San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants also announced refund policies.
Spring training was suspended March 12, and the regular season was delayed from its scheduled March 26 start because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A revised schedule has not been announced, with MLB exploring many options to play this year if deemed safe to do so by health experts and government leaders.
Two fans sued MLB, the 30 teams and ticket companies last week in federal court in Los Angeles, seeking refunds. The suit asks for class-action status.