On this heartwarming day, as the raindrops fell softly before a beautiful rainbow glowed overhead at the baseball town known as Cooperstown, maybe it was the endearing, informal speech or maybe it was his posture when he took the podium humbled, hearing his name enshrined into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
There were times, of course, when Andre Dawson wasn’t expected of being acknowledged as a Hall of Famer, omitted by many populace devoted to the game of baseball. It’s a rhetorical understanding that he was always disregarded and had to wait nine elections anxiously for a hallowed moment, a chance to feel the intense gratification of having his name engraved at Cooperstown.
In his playing days, he was an endearing star and stood as an admired icon because of his singular exploits and humility as the finest slugger with the then-Montreal Expos during an accomplished era. In a sense, it worked in his favor, becoming merely the 203rd player in the game’s history inducted into the Hall.
“Thank you for welcoming this rookie to your team” said Dawson, who wore a Montreal uniform for 10 seasons before joining the Chicago Cubs as a free agent. “It’s an honor beyond words. I didn’t play this game with this goal in mind, but I’m living proof that if you love this game, the game will love you back. I am proof that any young person who can hear my voice right now can be standing here as I am.”
The words of inspiration alone, tells us he was worthy of an incredible award. So each year, the Baseball Writers Association ignored the purity and qualifications of Dawson, especially when it’s a game obsessed with numbers and milestones, a trait and symbolic feature recognized all over the baseball society. However, it was a different notion for the man who appeared in the All Star Game eight times, with 438 homers, 2,774 hits, 1,591 RBIs and 314 stolen bases in a remarkable, all while serving a 20-year tenure.
Likewise, he acknowledged that the writers have the leverage in votes.
“You don’t hear any negativity about people in the Hall of Fame,” Dawson said. “How voting goes remains to be seen. You (writers) have always been the experts.”
What man gives credit to the writers? Not many players offers appreciation to writers, but more than anything, are critical of a writer’s stance and demeanor. When he arrived as a rookie in 1977, the hippie era including a phase most wore stylish afros, he was marked as a pseudo in the game and left us suspicious whether he was evidently a juicer at threshold of the Steroid Era.
Things have begun to elicit much questioning and skepticism in the caveat of the “dark side,” warning players about the latent repercussions of the usage of performance enhancing drugs. To this day, he does garner a sense that the game is on the brink of self-destruction and believes the infected era is slowly receding.
“There’s nothing wrong with the game of baseball,” said Dawson. “Baseball will, from time to time like anything else in life, fall victim to the mistakes that people make. It’s not pleasant and it’s not right. Individuals have chosen the wrong road, and they’re choosing that as their legacy. Those mistakes have hurt the game and taken a toll on all of us.
“Others still have a chance to choose theirs. Do not be lured to the dark side. “It’s a stain on the game, a stain gradually being removed.”
He slowly sauntered to the podium and microphone, maintaining open forum and absorbed the audience attention during his length speech, a touching moment that showed the classiness and humbleness of a deeply honored outfielder in his time. But unfortunately, Dawson’s numbers were trivial by the seductive home run surge of Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmerio and Sammy Sosa with the juiced era spoiling it for the innocent and spotless players.
For the first time since exiting the game, he was given an opportunity to be honored as a worthy player of the Hall and diluted an ascending legacy, a moment in his lifetime he was able to cherish as the Cubs and Expos fans roared and applauded a well-deserved athlete. On a pleasant afternoon, he was eulogized and cheered loudly by fans, accompanied by former manager Whitey Herzog, umpire Doug Harvey, broadcaster Jon Miller and sportswriter Bill Madden, who all shared the moment and were inducted into the Hall.
In what was a touching tribute, his mellifluous public speaking went a long ways, comprising of strong messages. In what was a sentimental ceremony, his eloquent words may have enlightened us. The cadence of his heartfelt, genuine speech was simply impressive, delivering a 15 to 20 minute acceptance message. With ailing knees, he stood tall and reflected on a painful career in which he endured 12 knee surgeries to mark a remarkable career.
“The initial impact was early as a result of high school football injury,” Dawson said. “The wear and tear over those 11 years, favoring that one particular knee, caused me to wear out the other knee. As it turned, I think I had eight surgeries by the time I was out of Montreal. I got to the point where I was more or less bone on bone.”
It’s never easy playing on a badly damaged knee that nearly forced Dawson to retire prematurely after his fourth season in the big leagues with the Expos before he returned to somehow write an extraordinary chapter and lasted 21 seasons in the majors. There were times, particularly following games, when he spent ample hours bathing and soaking his troubled knees, finding ways to heal career-threatening injuries.
And if there was one player who endured severe injuries, Dawson was a tough-minded outfielder with eight Gold Gloves, Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards. Anytime a player has become one of only three players in major-league history to finish with at least 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases, he’s worthy of the Hall of Fame. Lastly, he’s in the company of Barry Bonds and Willie Mays to reach such a plateau.
As for the worthy ones elected in the class of 2010, John Fogerty told the Hall of Famers. “You guys belong up here.”
Dawson certainly did.