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Hall of Famers applaud 2015 inductees Jeff Bagwell, right, and Ivan Rodriguez during their Induction Ceremony. (Cheryl Clough)

Inside the induction

Since 9/11 attacks, guarding baseball’s legends, fans,
has become top priority for Hall, local officials

By GREG KLEIN • Special to

As with a lot of things in America, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Induction Weekend changed 20 years ago, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Before, at Induction, you were thinking, ‘what if someone has a heart attack out here in the field?’ Suddenly, you had to think about a lot more things that could go wrong,” said Otsego County Board of Representatives Chair Dave Bliss.

“Obviously, you have seen snipers on the rooftops, at The Clark Sports Center, and in the village on Main Street,” he said. “The FBI, the State Police, the Sheriff’s Department and the village police are all involved.”

Before he was a county representative, Bliss was the town supervisor in Middlefield, where the Induction Weekend has taken place since 1992. He said the prep for each year’s event is led by the Hall, with heavy input from law enforcement. However, local officials are involved, too, he said.

“I just talked with the Hall people (Thursday),” he said. “EMS, of course, and E-911 were involved.”
Bliss said some of the matters were confidential, with the intent being a safe, incident-free ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 8.


“There are some things we discussed that I don’t know if I can say and there are some things we discussed that I don’t know if I should say,” he said. “There’s a lot of security and logistics where it is information I don’t think people would want out there.”

Police from the state, county and Cooperstown will be directing traffic and keeping pedestrians safe most of the day Wednesday as crowds swell inside the village and then make the trek down Susquehanna Avenue to the Clark Sports Center.

At 1:30 p.m., Baseball Writers’ Association of America selections Derek Jeter and Larry Walker, and Modern Era Committee selections Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller will be inducted in a ceremony projected to last about three hours.

A year after the 2020 Induction was canceled, the mid-week, one-day 2021 event took form in June, as the coronavirus pandemic began to wane and vaccinations began to increase. Originally, the 2021 induction was envisioned as a television event, filmed from a top-secret studio location. The June announcement left the Hall’s Awards Presentation on its original Saturday, July 24, and it took place at The Glimmerglass Festival in Springfield Center.

However, Hall officials expressed hope a ticket-only, limited-seating Induction Ceremony could take place outdoors in September. As pandemic rules loosened statewide, the original small ceremony expanded to become a normal event and the plan has not contracted, even in the face of a spreading Delta variant of the virus. In June, Hall officials said the Wednesday date, midweek and at the start of the Jewish high holidays, was one of a limited two or three days that worked for the rescheduled event. No other options were on weekend days, and no options were as attractive as Sept. 8, they said. Rescheduling involved Hall officials, the existing Hall of Famers, the inductees and their families and state and local officials.

Although the village will not host its normal activities this year, including awards presentation and Saturday evening Parade of Legends on Main Street, village officials are still involved in the event planning. The village Board of Trustees approved the annual closing of Main Street from Chestnut to Fair, to allow pedestrian traffic to spread out on Main. The closures this year will be Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cooperstown Central School will not be in session Wednesday and nearby Milford Central School will send its students home midday to avoid post-induction traffic. Bliss said county employees will mostly work from home, although the state courts will be in session and many county workers will have to report to the county’s Cooperstown and Middlefield offices.

Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said the Induction prep is normally a paint-by-numbers affair, but the change in schedule has complicated a busy week, when parents and kids are focused on back-to-school issues.

“It is kind of a well-oiled machine with the Hall taking lead on it,” she said. “The difference this year is it is midweek, of course, and several events have either already taken place or been cancelled.”

One aspect of the village planning that few people realized is the anti-terrorism prep that state and federal officials do to make sure Cooperstown is not hit by an attack. The Saturday parade is a good example. In the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, village officials started removing trash cans from Main Street before the parades to limit potential bomb locations. In 2019, the village upgraded to high-tech trash cans that can be emptied and locked before events to prevent an attack.
With the parade canceled, the trash cans are unobstructed, but merchants will hope the streets will still be full. Hall officials have said they don’t know what to expect, attendance wise, for this year’s induction. The pre-coronavirus predictions were Jeter’s Induction could rival the 2007 Induction of Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, which drew an estimated 82,000 fans. No one is expecting that many fans Wednesday.

Local officials said they have been told to prepare for 30,000 to 50,000, but those are vague estimates. A good or bad weather day, a good or bad week of Delta variant news could change things. Jeter being a New York hero means many of his fans can make day trips and can decide to drive to Cooperstown at the last minute, meaning late-breaking factors could play a bigger role for Jeter’s fanbase than, say, Larry Walker’s Colorado fans.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on the MLB Network and, as will a day-after Legends of the Game Roundtable. The Roundtable is usually a ticketed event held at Doubleday Field,
but this year’s event will be without a crowd and only available for viewing online or on TV, Hall officials said.

The village of Cooperstown’s new high-tech garbage cans can be locked to ensure no one can place bombs in them during the Legend’s Parade or during other Hall of Fame activities. Previously, village officials removed trash cans before the annual parade. With no parade this year, the trash cans will be open for business, according to local officials. (Greg Klein/


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