Derek Jeter is the angel that business owners near the National Baseball Hall of Fame are waiting for as they worry about a drug-stained 2013 class that may lack a living member.
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, the steroid-tainted Major League Baseball players who are the sport’s most decorated in history, are among 24 new candidates for election to the Cooperstown, New York-based Hall, which will announce today who will be enshrined on July 28.
A decision by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to follow precedent and pass on Clemens and Bonds because of their links to drugs would prevent Cooperstown businesses from reaping profits such as those of 2007, when Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn joined the Hall in front of a record 75,000 fans. Merchants are looking ahead to the induction of Jeter, 38, the clean-image 13-time All-Star whose New York Yankees fan base is within driving distance of the museum. That’s a minimum of at least five years away, and it’s already in the planning stages.
“It will be the biggest this town has ever seen,” said Vincent Carfagno, the owner of the Cooperstown baseball memorabilia store Seventh Inning Stretch. “It will be double Ripken, as long as people can park and there are still rooms for people to stay.”
Carfagno, 41, said the 2007 induction weekend accounted for 20 percent to 25 percent of his gross revenue that year, while less popular elections such as Barry Larkin’s in 2012 account for 5 percent to 10 percent. He wouldn’t give dollar figures.
“We’ll know, once the votes come out, whether it’s going to be a slow year,” Carfagno said in a telephone interview.
Brad Horn, a spokesman for the non-profit Hall, said each induction ceremony was part of a year-round operation.
“When we have large crowds, that brings additional resource challenges and additional opportunities for revenue,” he said in a telephone interview.
Had it not been for the taint of steroids, the July 27-28, 2013, induction weekend would have been among the most anticipated for the Hall, which opened in 1939.
Bonds, whose 762 home runs for the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants are the most in major league history, was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player a record seven times. Clemens, whose 354 wins for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays place him ninth on the career list, won a record seven Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher in his league.
Both were tied to the use of either steroids or human growth hormone in the 2007 report by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. Another new Hall candidate, Sammy Sosa, failed a drug test, according to the New York Times.
Clemens last June was acquitted of lying to Congress about his use of banned drugs. His first prosecution ended in a mistrial in July 2011.
Bonds was convicted in April 2010 by a federal jury in San Francisco of obstructing a U.S. probe of steroid use by professional athletes. Jurors were unable to agree on whether he lied when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he didn’t knowingly take steroids or HGH and didn’t receive injections from his trainer. A mistrial was declared on those counts.
Sosa, whose 609 career homers are the eighth most, tested positive for banned drug use in 2003, according to a Times report. He told a U.S. congressional committee in 2005 that he never used banned muscle-builders.
In recent years, the writers association has snubbed players with drug ties, such as Mark McGwire who confessed to steroid use and Rafael Palmeiro who failed a test for performance enhancers.
“I obviously have a business to run but if they got in it would obviously be better for all of us, for the economy, for Cooperstown,” said Teresa Weybrew, director of sales at Hatfield, Massachusetts-based Sports Travel and Tours, which has a licensing agreement with the Hall to provide travel packages. “But it’s a very difficult call to make and I know there’s a lot of angry people out there.”
Other first-time candidates such as catcher Mike Piazza, second baseman Craig Biggio and pitcher Curt Schilling, while never being specifically linked to illicit drug use, played during an era that cast suspicion upon just about every player.
Candidates must receive 75 percent of the votes of BBWAA members to gain induction. Pitcher Jack Morris, with 66.7 percent, received the most votes last year without getting elected, followed by Jeff Bagwell with 56 percent.
If no one is elected by the BBWAA, the Hall still will honor umpire Hank O’Day, former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and Deacon White, who played from 1871 to 1890, all of whom died at least 72 years ago. They were elected by the Hall’s Pre-Integration Era Committee and lack automatic drawing power.
“From a business standpoint, it really could be huge,” said Chris Grady, whose family owns Stagecoach Coffee in Cooperstown, which in 2010 had a population of 1,852. “It does make a big difference for that weekend.”
Grady, 33, said a year like the one in which Ripken, a 19-time All-Star for the Baltimore Orioles who set the record for consecutive games played, was inducted doubled his profits that weekend and helped business through the rest of the year.
“After a guy goes in, you see a huge influx of those teams’ fans,” Grady said in a telephone interview. “Orioles fans were just crazy that year. They kept coming all through the fall.”
The Oneonta Hampton Inn, about 20 minutes from Cooperstown, probably will fill regardless of who is enshrined, according to Sales Manager Ashley Camarata. For Ripken’s induction, lodging was booked past Albany, New York, about a 90-minute drive from the museum, she said.
Local officials had to negotiate with farmers near the museum to borrow land for parking cars and busing visitors in 2007, said Patricia Szarpa, the executive director of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce. She called today’s announcement “an important thing, but I don’t think it’s as much a do-or-die situation as some people might think it is.”
“Since 1939, there’s been ebbs and flows of big years and little years,” Szarpa said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to make as big a party of if as we can, regardless.”
Jeter, the shortstop whose 3,304 hits are 11th on the career list, is preparing to play this season and has a contract option through 2014. Players become eligible for the Hall five years after retirement.
Whenever Jeter’s election arrives, it will produce a weekend already being planned for by village and county officials, said Szarpa.
“It’s going to be mayhem,” she said. “Now, that will be the year that you’ll love to be here.”