Live coverage of the Hall of Fame induction announcement begins at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday on MLB Network and MLB.com, and then at 2 p.m., the much-anticipated moment arrives.
"It's great to spread the joy," Jeff Idelson said.
That is how the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame describes the actual announcement he will make personally for the third year in a row. At that time, Idelson will identify any of 33 eligible former players who received at least 75 percent of the vote from the participating Baseball Writers Association of America members.
The induction ceremony is July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven appear to be among those likely to wind up making speeches that day, with Barry Larkin, Jack Morris and Lee Smith also in the running -- if polls of voters are any indication.
"For those who are fortunate enough to get the call that they've earned election, it's the pinnacle of success on an individual level," Idelson said Tuesday night. "To have the opportunity to reveal the results every year on the MLB Network allows me to share great news with the fans of those players who earn election over the years."
This is one of those events like a Kentucky Derby or a Space Shuttle launch, where the anticipation and the conversation swirl mightily while "the moment" itself happens so quickly.
From 1-2 p.m., fans can watch the MLB Network Hall of Fame announcement show and get caught up in the preview excitement, simulcast live on MLB.com. Then Idelson makes the announcement, and that programming continues until 2:30 p.m.
From 2:30 p.m. through much of the afternoon, the interactive daily MLB.com/LIVE Hot Stove Show is devoted to analysis, interviews and highlights pertaining to the Hall induction. Hall voter Hal Bodley, former MLB executive Jim Duquette and host Jeremy Brisiel will be in the MLB.com studio, and fans can participate by emailing live@MLB.com, sending an IM to mlblive or tweeting @MLBCOMLIVE.
The news conference with any new electees will be held at 11 a.m. ET on Thursday and will be televised on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com.
The 2011 BBWAA ballot features 33 players, including 19 new candidates and 14 returnees. The complete ballot includes: Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Jeff Bagwell, Harold Baines, Blyleven, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Larkin, Al Leiter, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Raul Mondesi, Morris, Dale Murphy, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago, Lee Smith, B.J. Surhoff, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker.
Did any of them meet the required 75 percent? Idelson said he is as excited as anyone to find out the identities in this process, and in his case, the news comes sooner. He was meeting with longtime BBWAA secretary Jack O'Connell Tuesday evening to go over the results and make plans.
"There is a very, very, very, very small circle of those of us who know within 24 hours," Idelson said. "That is to assure that we can verify the vote, to assure that we have all the logistics in place to achieve a successful announcement.
"When you have 500-plus ballots to count, and you do that with Ernst & Young as an auditor, you need to make sure you have time to assure the validity of the vote."
Last year, Andre Dawson was the sole player elected to the Hall. Any electees named on Wednesday will join three-time World Series winning general manager Pat Gillick at the 2011 induction, along with Ford C. Frick Award winner Dave Van Horne and J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Bill Conlin.
"It's incredibly exciting," Idelson said. "I've been a baseball fan since I could walk. This is my 25th year in baseball overall, 17 with the Hall of Fame, and every year the Hall of Fame continues to evolve. Part of that is the way we develop exhibits, and part is honoring those who were the greatest at their craft."
The exact 2 p.m. ET time of announcement is becoming as traditional as the Hall itself, an iconic establishment that dates back to the 1930s. O'Connell said that has been the announcement time for at least the last 15 or 20 years, and before that it fluctuated year to year.
Dan Holmes, a former Hall of Fame staffer and author of the 2004 book "Ty Cobb: A Biography," said there was no formal announcement when the fabled "First Class" quintet was chosen in 1936. That was Cobb along with Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner.
"The BBWAA tabulated the votes (somewhere, probably NYC) and then the Hall of Fame was informed," Holmes said in an email to MLB.com. "The Sporting News (weekly newspaper) revealed the votes publicly. I don't have any notes on how Cobb learned of his election. Of course at that time there wasn't even a Hall of Fame yet, it wouldn't open for three more years, but Cobb was honored and quite proud that he received more votes than any other player, especially Babe Ruth."
At its core, the best thing of all is the unchanged aspect of simply honoring the most elite of players and immortalizing them in the same gallery room as such greats as Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. But it is also interesting how the announcement event itself has evolved, from a time when baseball sought to help make afternoon-newspaper deadlines to now in its widest reach ever.
Social media will only fuel the global buzz. Any electee's name will likely vault quickly to the top of Twitter's worldwide Trending Topics, become a hot search term on Google, make the walls of Facebook pages everywhere and draw opinions from bloggers.
Idelson grew up listening to the Red Sox on his radio and was a vendor at Fenway Park in high school and college, hawking popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs and soda. He worked in public relations for the Yankees and the Red Sox, joined the Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 2008 assumed the role of president and CEO. Spreading the joy on Wednesday -- unless it's a shutout, of course -- has to be about the best part of the job, as everyone is waiting to hear the news.
"Through the MLB Network and MLB.com, we are able to reach baseball fans around the globe all at once," Idelson said. "For those who get into the Hall of Fame, the news spreads quickly thanks in large part to baseball writers who cover the announcement, but also the magic of MLB.com and the reach they have built over the years plus MLB Network's more than 55 million households.
"It's quite a reach. It's a great commercial for Cooperstown."