Will 'The Hawk' Land in Cooperstown?
Andre Dawson was born the same year I was - 1954. His birthday is the same as my eldest child’s - July 10. But neither of those trivial bits have anything at all to do with his candidacy for election to baseball’s hall of fame.
There’s a strong numerical case to be made on behalf of The Hawk. I’ll leave it to others to keep making it. But once it’s been laid out I’d add a couple of intangible, immeasurable flourishes as finishing touches.
I remember a game that I want to say, but can’t prove, happened during Dawson’s MVP season of 1987 when everything he did seemed spectacular. Whoever was the starting pitcher for the Cubs on this particular day didn’t have it and was getting cuffed around in the top of the 1st. The first two outs of the game were accomplished by Dawson throwing runners out at the plate, prompting an admiring Harry Caray to remark, “Dawson’s pitching a better game than [fill in the blank]!”
A more generic endorsement of his worthiness, in my book, is the trouble he went to on a daily basis just to take the field. Dawson was known for spending a couple of hours both before and after games icing his fragile knees so he could stay in the lineup and off the DL. He not only insisted on playing, he managed to do it at a consistently high level. People always talk about athletes as role models for kids. The hell with that. What about serving as role models for their peers? I always thought Dawson must have been a tremendous example in the clubhouse of how a true professional should approach his craft.
And then on a related note, of course, there’s the quasi-legendary blank contract that Dawson accepted to play for the Cubs in the first place, confident that his production would be fairly compensated after the fact instead of on the come.
Milton Bradley and, his prodigious power numbers notwithstanding, Sammy Sosa may have been highly paid for their time in right field at Wrigley, but you can combine the two at their respective bests and still have nothing more than a cheap imitation of Andre Dawson.
He was truly menacing both in the field and at the plate in ways that only the very best ever are. If you insist on numbers, Dawson compiled those too. But mostly he stacked up exclamations like, “Holy Cow!”
Here’s hoping he gets in this time around and holds the door open for Santo next year