Hall of Fame weekend is always an emotional time for inductees.
The day is equally poignant for former teammates who sit among the crowd and reminisce along with the inductee. They're the ones who helped support him through slumps and streaks, on bus rides and plane trips, from rookie year to retirement. They can best relate to the sacrifices a Hall of Fame career entails.
Many players dream of one day being inducted into the Hall of Fame, but only a few of the thousands of players get that chance.
This year along with Andre Dawson, manager Whitey Horzog and umpire Doug Harvey will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Although many people are glad to see Andre "The Hawk" Dawson get inducted, some are still skeptical on whether or not he should have been.
I believe, without a doubt, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
Andre played for four teams for his entire career: the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and Florida Marlins. Although he started his career and played his first 11 seasons for the Expos, he was mostly known for playing for the Cubs.
In 1977 he played his first full season for the Expos and started off his career pretty well. He batted .282 with 19 home runs, 65 runs batted in, and 21 stolen bases. He had a good enough season to win the Rookie of the Year award, and was off to a promising career. In 10 full seasons with the Expos, he averaged 23 home runs, 84 runs batted in, and 25 stolen bases. In 1980 he won one of six consecutive gold gloves with the Expos.
Although he will enter the Hall of Fame as an Expo, he did most of his damage as a Cub.
In 1986, the Expos had offered Dawson a two-year, $2 million offer, but he chose the Cubs because he liked the daytime baseball and always enjoyed the banter with the fans at Wrigley.
Chicago players were so anxious to have Dawson that they lobbied publicly for the team to sign him. Pitcher Rick Sutcliffe offered to donate $100,000 in salary to aid in the fund drive. Although he was offered just a $500,000 base salary as opposed to $2,000,000 from the Expos, Dawson stuck to his word and signed the deal.
In his first season as a Cub, Dawson had his best season of his career. He batted .287 with 49 home runs, 137 runs batted in, and 11 stolen bases. He went on to win his first Most Valuable Player award. He also won his seventh Gold Glove award and fourth Silver Slugger award. The MVP award was slightly controversial because he played on a team that went 76-85 and finished last in the division. You can't ignore those numbers though, no matter how the team did. He deserved to win the award, on a losing team or not. Ironically, his worst season as a Cubs came in 1989 when they won the NL East. He hit .252 with 21 home runs, 77 runs batted in, and eight stolen bases in just 118 games.
When you look at Dawson's career numbers, there is some that say that he's a definite Hall of Famer, and there are some that say he doesn't deserve it.
In 21 major league seasons, he finished with a .279 batting average, 439 home runs (36th), 1591 runs batted in (35th), and 314 stolen bases. Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, and Barry Bonds are the only three players with 400 homers and 300 stolen bases.
Dawson won eight Gold Gloves, a ROY award, an MVP award, and made eight All-Star Teams. You would figure these type of stats would be a guaranteed HOF selection for any player.
There are also some flaws in his stats that kept him from being inducted in his first year. His .323 on-base percentage is the lowest of any outfielder in Cooperstown.
Yes, Andre Dawson, 56, would have preferred to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame with a Cubs logo on his cap. It was the Hall's decision to etch the Montreal Expos' logo instead.
For Dawson, the Hall is really about the validation of a goal he envisioned as his career was nearing an end, and one he is convinced wouldn't have happened without his time with the Cubs. He said he plans to send Chicago a special message in his induction speech Sunday.
Words such as "respected" and "feared" can be overused, of course, but there's no doubt Dawson possessed an intimidation factor that resonated in opposing dugouts. It's a sentiment many of Dawson's former teammates share.
Regardless of whether they make it to Cooperstown for his speech Sunday, they will be with him in spirit, from the first word to the last.