Andre Dawson Finally a Member of Baseball's Hall of Fame

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IJanuary 6, 2010

What must a player do to enter the Hall of Fame? Let’s look at a player’s resume without the name attached.

He must have won awards; they tell us he was among the best in his era.

Rookie of the Year in 1977. National League Most Valuable Player in 1987—on a last place team. Eight-time All Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner, four-time Silver Slugger.

His offensive numbers must be superior; baseball is a statistical game, and without big-time stats you can’t get into the Hall of Fame.

He hit 434 home runs, which ranks 36th all-time. Cal Ripken, Billy Williams, Al Kaline, Duke Snider, Johnny Bench, and Jim Rice are a few of the Hall of Famers that hit fewer long balls.

He ranks 24th all-time in extra base hits with 1,039. Some notable names that follow him on the list: Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks, Honus Wagner, Kaline, Mickey Mantle, Billy Williams, Harmen Killebrew, Joe DiMaggio, and Rickey Henderson. In fact, he had 24.5 percent more extra base hits than Jim Rice, who was the sentimental favorite at 2009’s ceremony.

Ranks 34th all-time in runs batted in with 1,591. Some names that follow: Rogers Hornsby, Killebrew, Kaline, Willie McCovey, Joe DiMaggio, Mantle, Eddie Mathews, and Rice.

He also ranks 25th all-time in total bases with 4,787. Some notable names that trail that number include Hornsby, Billy Williams, Henderson, Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Schmidt, Brooks Robinson, and Lou Brock.

Ranks 10th all-time in sac flies.

Only 10 outfielders have won more than his four Silver Sluggers.

He is one of only six players in baseball history to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases. The others: Barry and Bobby Bonds, Willie Mays, Reggie Sanders, and Steve Finley.

His Power-Speed number ranks seventh all-time. Who ranks eighth? Hank Aaron. Only Barry Bonds, Henderson, Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Bobby Bonds, and Joe Morgan rank higher.

One of the largest arguments against him was that he didn’t walk enough. And yet his career .806 OPS ranks ahead of, to name a few, Carlton Fisk, Ryne Sandberg, Ripken, Robin Yount, and Pete Rose.

Yes, he did strike out—1,509 times in fact. But Mays, Barry Bonds, Dave Winfield, Henderson, Killebrew, Mantle, and Schmidt are among the 46 names that rank higher than his total.

But did he pay defense? Offensive numbers mean little if he was a liability in the field.

Only Clemente, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr, Andruw Jones, Kaline, Torii Hunter, and Ichiro won more Gold Gloves as an outfielder. That’s it.

Only Mays, Schmidt, Griffey, Barry Bonds, and him have 400 home runs and eight Gold Gloves. How’s that for elite company?

So how on earth is this guy not in the Hall of Fame?

From 1976 to 1986, the prime of his career, Andre Dawson was playing in Montreal.

How much of a black hole was Montreal? The franchise existed from 1969 to 2004 and only appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated three times. Even though Dawson made three All Star teams and won six Gold Glove Awards while with the Expos, he didn’t receive the national exposure, and recognition, he deserved until he landed in Chicago as a free agent before the 1987 season.

And even the circumstances surrounding his signing were disrespectful.

In a back-and-forth that has become urban legend, Dawson wanted to prolong his career and save his knees by getting out of Montreal, and wanted to play for the Cubs. Dawson and his agent approached then-Chicago GM Dallas Green with interest in joining the Cubs before the 1987 season, but Green refused to offer the All Star a contract. In fact, it wasn’t until Dawson and his agent presented a blank contract to Green two weeks into Spring Training that year, allowing him to dictate the salary and bonus amounts, that Green finally relented and added Dawson to the team.

Of course the 1987 Cubs were 76-85, a last place team. That didn’t stop Dawson from leading the National League in home runs, starting the All Star Game, and being named the league MVP. His base salary for the great season? Only $500,000.

But now a baseball odyssey that has been filled with disrespect finds its proper resting place. Finally, after a wait that was entirely too long, Dawson received the phone call he deserved on Wednesday and will enter the Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2010—a subtle irony that Dawson’s number, 10, was retired by the Montreal Expos.

As a Cubs fan born in 1980, Dawson was the first superstar to join the Cubs as a free agent that I can remember. I wanted to wear his number, eight, on my Little League team.

When we played stickball in the street, we all used to imitate his batting stance; he always had his back leg bent at the knee, and his high follow-through always left us looking to the sky for the long fly ball we had hit, again imitating Dawson. He had a great arm and led one of the most memorable Cubs teams of the past 50 years in 1989 when the Cubs came up short against Will Clark and the San Francisco Giants.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark voted for Dawson. “What those of us who covered the National League in the '80s are still wondering, though, is this: How come it's taken this long?” said Stark in his HOF blog this week. “He, Mike Schmidt and Dale Murphy towered above the rest of the National League in their time.”

“The character clause in the Hall of Fame voting is invoked now more than ever given the steroid scandal, but be assured of this: There has never been a better character guy than Dawson,” wrote ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian. ”And that is why you have to look past some numbers. With Dawson, look at the intangibles, look at the era, and understand that in 1987, in a time of collusion, Dawson gave the Cubs a blank contract and told them to fill in any amount, and he'd sign. It wasn't about the money, it was about playing the game the right way. No one did that better.”

Bruce Levine, who covers baseball for ESPN’s Chicago radio affiliate WMVP, said: “The Hall of Fame reminds voters to consider a player's career, his numbers, whether he was a dominant player for at least a decade or more, and whether he he showed outstanding character on and off the field. Dawson passes with flying colors in all these areas of judgment.”

Fox’s Ken Rosenthal said, “[Dawson] was a model player, an all-around marvel revered both by teammates and opponents not just for his playing ability, but also for his ability to endure through relentless knee pain.”

Baseball Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons wrote of Dawson, “There are strong arguments by baseball scholars that Dawson's numbers are hollow...But 1,500 RBIs, 400 homers and 300 steals have been accomplished by The Hawk, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. Teammates named kids after him.”

I find a personal satisfaction in Dawson finally getting into the Hall. In this era of tarnished heroes and questioned legacies, Dawson is one of the great Cubs that I look back on without reason to doubt (cough, Sammy Sosa, cough). Baseball needs to celebrate quality men like Dawson, and when the stats are as sound as his are, there’s no reason to keep him out of his proper company with baseball’s all time elite.

Congratulations, Hawk!


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