This year’s National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction of six living members drew an estimated crowd of 53,000, which the Hall of Fame cites as the second largest Induction Day gathering, surpassed only by the 2007 induction of fan favorites Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.
The group of six, including first-ballot inductees Jim Thome and Chipper Jones as well as second and third ballot candidates Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman, respectively, along with Modern Era Committee selections Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, marked just the fifth time six members were inducted together.
It was also the fourth time in the last five years that attendance for the ceremony exceeded 40,000.
While the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of American have most often elected one or two eligible candidates in any given year, (52 times in 74 elections), recent and upcoming elections have bucked that trend.
The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot included all-time home run king Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens both in their first year of eligibility with Bonds receiving 36.2 percent of the vote and Clemens 37.6 percent. No eligible living players were chosen and the election was largely regarded as statement by the BBWAA as to how it regarded players suspected of using performance enhancing drugs.
Obituaries for the Hall were written, but the Hall’s demise proved premature.
The 2014 Induction drew an estimated 40,000 and was the most recent to include six living inductees: Atlanta Braves ace pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas as well as mangers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, each of whom was elected by a veterans committee.
With a new election process that included a culling of veteran and inactive members of the BBWAA allowed to vote the 2014 induction including three managers who presided over teams during what is commonly referred to as the “steroid” and/or “PED” era provided a litmus test for how voters would respond to the inclusion of the immediate wave of eligible candidates.
The 2015 Induction was another blockbuster class of four including pitchers Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and second baseman Craig Biggio, drawing about 45,000.
First-ballot candidate Ken Griffey Jr. received a record 99.32 percent of the vote and was joined by New York Mets fan favorite catcher Mike Piazza for the 2016 Induction and the pairing drew about 50,000 attendees.
The 2017 Induction of Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, long-time executive John Schuerholz and outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig saw a dip from the previous highs but the reported crowd of 27,500 still cracked the top-eight crowds of all-time.
Following this year’s tremendous showing and with a glut of qualified candidates looming on the horizon, the decade of inductions beginning in 2014 and running through 2023 promises to be the most prolific 10-year stretch in both the number of inductees and attendees in the Hall of Fame’s 80-year history.
With former New York Yankees relief ace Mariano Rivera leading the group of next year’s newly eligible inductees including pitchers Roy Halladay and Any Pettitte, slugger Todd Helton and recent high-voting-percentage returning candidates such as DH Edgar Martinez (70.4 percent last year), pitcher Mike Mussina (63.5 percent) and upward trending Barry Bonds (56.4 percent) and Roger Clemens (57.3 percent), the 2019 induction class could be another large grouping.
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter leads the eligible class of 2020, which also includes slugger Paul Konerko and second baseman Alfonso Soriano.
Assuming they are both elected on their first ballot, the back-to-back inductions of Rivera and Jeter should bring two of the biggest Induction Day crowds, rivaling the Ripken/Gwynn card of 2007.
While the class of 2021 does not present any automatic first-ballot inductees, the 2022 ballot will be led by David Ortiz, the most productive DH in history and also includes the notorious Alex Rodriguez perhaps the most accomplished player to serve a PED suspension.
Well-traveled slugger Carlos Beltran will leads the class of 2023, but depending on whether Ichiro Suzuki stays retired, the outpouring of Japanese media and fans could create the largest Induction Day crowd Cooperstown has ever seen and should test the limit of the village’s capacity.
We’ve come a long way since standing in the rain with 2,500 people at the 2013 Induction. We’re in the middle of the Hall of Fame’s Golden Age.