Jeter will be inducted at a ceremony July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with slugger Larry Walker, who narrowly earned election in his 10th and final year on the ballot, with 304 votes, or 76.6 percent — just above the 75 percent threshold required — to become the first Canadian position player to earn the honor.
Catcher Ted Simmons and the late union chief Marvin Miller were elected by the Modern Baseball Era Committee on Dec. 8 and will also be inducted in July.
Jeter, 45, was a slam dunk electee in his first year on the writers’ ballot, with the only drama surrounding whether he would join Rivera as a unanimous pick. He was polling at 100 percent in vote-tracking of publicly available ballots this week, but one voter, unidentified as of Tuesday evening, apparently saw something lacking in Jeter’s record — which included 3,465 hits, a .310 career batting average, eight top-10 finishes in American League MVP voting and countless stellar moments across 158 postseason games.
The BBWAA gives its voting members the option of making their ballots public but does not require it, which means the identity of the voter who left Jeter off their ballot may never be known.
“I look at all the votes I got,” Jeter said on a conference call with reporters when asked whether he was bothered by falling one vote shy of unanimous election. “It takes a lot of votes to get elected to the Hall of Fame. Trying to get that many people to agree on something is difficult to do. That’s not something that’s on my mind. I’m just excited and honored to be elected.”
Jeter, now part-owner and chief baseball officer of the Miami Marlins, spent all 20 seasons of his big league playing career with the Yankees, who selected him with the sixth pick of the 1992 draft. He hit .210 in his first minor league season and committed 56 errors in his second, but he arrived in the Bronx with preternatural polish in 1995 and locked down the Yankees’ starting shortstop job by 1996 — a season that ended with the Yankees winning the first of four World Series titles in a five-year span. He never played a single inning at a different defensive position, even after the Yankees acquired Alex Rodriguez in 2004.
In contrast to Jeter’s short, quick path to Cooperstown, Walker’s road was long, slow and winding. He spent the first seven years of his candidacy languishing in the 10 to 20 percent range but began seeing a swift rise in 2018, jumping to 34.1 percent, then 54.6 percent in 2019. That, combined with the traditional boost for last-chance candidates, figured to put him within range of election this year.
Still, by midday Tuesday, Walker, 53, was tweeting that he believed he would fall “a little short” — but he wanted to thank his supporters anyway. He was as surprised as anyone when the call came informing him of his narrow election.
“I had the numbers in my head and was prepared for a no-call,” Walker said on MLB Network. “Then the call comes, and all of a sudden you can’t breathe. When that phone rang, and I saw that number, yeah, [your] heart skips a beat.”
Although he won seven Gold Gloves, three batting titles and the 1997 National League MVP award, Walker’s candidacy drew immeasurable scrutiny because he spent the bulk of his career at Denver’s Coors Field, the most hospitable offensive atmosphere in baseball. During 10 seasons with the Colorado Rockies, Walker hit .384 at home, compared with .280 on the road. Walker also played for the Montreal Expos and St. Louis Cardinals; pitcher Ferguson Jenkins is the only other Canadian to be voted to the Hall of Fame.
Falling just short of election Tuesday was Curt Schilling, among the best postseason pitchers of his generation but a polarizing figure in retirement. Schilling was selected by 70 percent of voters in his eighth year on the ballot but is well positioned to earn election next year, when there will be no surefire first-timers. Also in position to make a Walker-esque leap above the 75 percent threshold is shortstop Omar Vizquel, who reached 52.6 percent on Tuesday in his third year on the ballot, up from 42.8 percent last year.
On the other hand, Roger Clemens (61.0 percent) and Barry Bonds (60.7 percent) — arguably the greatest pitcher and slugger of their generation but both widely suspected of having used performance-enhancing drugs — saw only modest gains in their vote percentages in their eighth year on the ballot, leaving their chances of election in doubt with two tries to go.