This year’s Hall of Fame vote will be revealed at 1p.m. CT today, and Andre Dawson should be among those receiving the requisite 75 percent needed for induction. Last year, Dawson received 67 percent.
His ability should be unquestioned. Dawson is one of just four players with 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases. The Florida native was a true five-tool player, possessing one of the strongest and most accurate outfield arms in the game. After the wear and tear on his knees because of the constant pounding from the turf at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, a move to natural grass was a must for the would-be free agent after the 1986 season.
Dawson and agent Dick Moss concocted a plan to get him a deal with the Cubs. Dawson and Moss arrived in Mesa, Ariz., in February 1987 with a blank contract in hand. Cubs general manager Dallas Green filled in $500,000 that year, a good half a million dollars below market value for a superstar at that time. The situation worked out perfectly for the player and the team, although the Cubs finished in last place in the old National League East. Dawson’s season was off the charts as he garnered the NL’s MVP award after hitting 49 home runs and driving in 137 runs.
Dawson, who was known as the Hawk; future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg; and pitcher Rick Sutcliffe were the guts of the Cubs in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Just being able to play was a difficult process for Dawson. Knee damage from his time in Montreal forced him to ice his knees for an hour and a half before each game and for another hour after. Arthritis in those knees led to knee replacement after his career was over.
As a person and a player, there are few individuals who brought the same character and work ethic to the game every day. Although Dawson wasn’t a rah-rah type, he was a leader and a mentor to the other players on his team. If Dawson told you he would meet you on the corner of State and Lake at 3 a.m., he’d be there at 2:55 a.m. That was the consistency of Andre Dawson.
Then-Cubs manager Don Zimmer pointed to Dawson one day when shortstop Shawon Dunston was a minute late to a morning workout.
“If you’re early, you’re never late,” Zimmer told Dunston as they watched Dawson take fly balls in the outfield.
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.
When he played, Dawson was one of the most feared hitters and most voracious defenders in the league. What else can a guy do but be one of the best of the best when he played? Good luck, Hawk.