That is the sound of hundreds of imaginary cash registers going off in Cooperstown.
When Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees announced last week that this coming season would be his last playing professional baseball, the countdown began for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
There is a five-year waiting period after a player retires before the Baseball Writers’ Association of America can vote to admit him into the Cooperstown shrine. So, the earliest Jeter could be inducted would be six years from now.
Barring any highly unlikely event (for instance, a steroid scandal or the squeaky-clean Jeter being convicted of some onerous crime), the Yankees captain is a mortal lock to be voted into the Hall on his first year of eligibility.
Each year, local merchants and hotel operators greatly depend on large crowds for the Hall’s Induction Weekend. The inductees with the most fans lure the most tourists who want to see their heroes honored.
The largest crowd for a Cooperstown induction ceremony was in 2007, when an estimated 75,000 people watched Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn give their speeches and receive their plaques.
That figure is very likely to be surpassed in five years when treasured Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera — who retired after last season — is inducted. It will be a very good year for the Cooperstown-area economy.
But the record will be absolutely blown away the next year when Jeter, possibly the most beloved player in the game, is honored.
Already, more than 100 inquiries about hotel reservations for six years from this July have been received. The hoteliers we spoke to say they won’t book rooms more than two years in advance, but they could easily sell out long before then if they chose to.
The Jeter induction will be the one against which all others are judged. Truth be known, Jeter isn’t the best player in baseball history. Most of the time, he hasn’t been the best player on his own team. He has never won a league Most Valuable Player award. But he may well be the best shortstop in history. He has been consistently excellent, attaining more than 3,000 hits and being a clutch performer on teams that have won five World Series.
More importantly, he has played the game the way it is supposed to be played, hustling on every play, being respectful to teammates, managers and opponents, being an admirable role model and staying clear of any performance-enhancing drugs.
He is someone the average Joe and Josephine can relate to, to admire and cherish, and if that makes the cash registers KA-CHING in Cooperstown, well ... that’s just fine, too.