There is no question in my mind that Andre Dawson finally deserves to enshrined with the best of the best. Heres why…
ANDRE DAWSON – YES: My emotional pick, but also a worthy entrant on his merits alone. “The Hawk” was a feared force in the middle of major league lineups for 21 seasons, the first 11 of those in Montreal where his talents were overlooked and his knees were ravaged by Olympic Stadium’s Astroturf playing surface. He was THE complete player of his era. He could hit (5 times over .300, 4 Silver Slugger Awards), hit for power (438 HR’s 42nd all-time), run (314 career SB’s), field (8 gold gloves), and throw from right field with a cannon arm (157 career assists). He also had 4 seasons of 100+ RBI’s, ranks 24th all-time in RBI’s and total bases, ranks 21st all-time in extra base hits, and made 8 All-Star appearances.
While all of these numbers are impressive enough, it was his MVP award in 1987 during his first season with the Cubs that allowed the rest of the baseball world to understand just how great a player he was, and what a tough man he was even by baseball standards. After his last season with the Expos in 1986 Dawson was unbelievably unable to find a job playing Major league baseball despite batting .278, hitting 20 HR’s, and driving in 78 RBI’s. It was the “Collusion” year where the MLB owners collectively agreed not to sign players to force down their market value. Dawson eventually agreed to play for the Cubs, but under a blank contract which the Cubs would fill in the salary for at whatever amount they wanted! General manager Dallas Green filled in the blank for $500,000, which was the second lowest salary for any starting player on the team, and millions below his legitimate market value. Dawson went on to have the year of his career batting .287, belting 49HR’s and driving in 137 RBI’s becoming the first player ever to win an MVP while on a last place team. By signing that blank contract he exposed and destroyed the owners attempt at collusion, and became the poster child for the Players Association as they went on to win their grievance against the owners in court, and were awarded $280 million in damages. His courage, inner confidence, and ability to perform at the highest level under the most difficult circumstances were all showcased during this season, and revered by his fellow players. These were characteristics he demonstrated throughout his career.
On a personal note, he was the toughest and most determined competitor I ever had the honor to play with and one of the classiest teammates ever. As I mentioned earlier the turf in Montreal destroyed the cartilage in his knees. When I played with him on the Cubs, every day he would arrive at the park several hours early, and literally limp to the training room to get his knees worked on (whirlpool, massage, ultrasound, analgesic, tape, and anything else available) so that he could compete that night. Yet despite his daily physical agony, he played every day and played as hard as anyone on the field. To this day I am in awe of what I witnessed him endure to play the game of baseball, and play it at a level that teammates and opponents alike admired and envied. He inspired other players to play harder, and was a great mentor to younger players coming up. He was a complete, impacting and enduring player. Is Andre “The Hawk” Dawson a Hall of Famer? No doubt in my mind.