Knee High to the Hall of Fame

"Andre Dawson, the player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson. He's the best I've ever seen. The Hawk, I watched him win an MVP for a last place team in 1987. It was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way. I hope he will stand up here one day."

                          --Ryne Sandberg, in his Hall of Fame Induction Speech

No matter what hat his hall of fame plaque has, will represent the Cubs honorably into Baseball's Shrine. This is a man who overcame his own obstacles, or more specifically his own knees. We all know that Dawson came to the Cubs in 1987 to flee the hard artificial turf of Montreal Olympic Stadium which was playing havoc with his knees.

might have never made it to Chicago, where he said he rejuvenated his career, were it not for the encouragement of his wife, Vanessa. Dawson was in so much pain in his fourth big league season because of a “fractured knee” that he told her he didn’t know if he could play any longer. Pain medication was barely getting him through games.

“The third (Darvocet) took the pain away but it came back at night. That’s why I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Dawson said. “And she looked at me and said, `You know you’re hurting now, but just see what the problem is because a year, two years from now you are going to regret walking away.”’

The last 10 years of his career (including 6 with the Cubs) were based in home parks where right field had mother natures own soft grass turf. This prolonged his career well beyond what most of his could have projected.

In 1985, then-Expos teammate Tim Wallach said of Dawson's perpetual struggles with his knees, "It hurts me as much as it hurts him. Sometimes I wish I could give him my knees. He never moans. He never complains. He has no excuses. Everyone here respects him."

Most watched in awe at the agony he put up with but few knew why Dawson had to methodically prepare for games and baseball seasons. He made it onto the field for .

His first injury ironically was due to football, well before his professional baseball career started. 

His first knee operation dated to a , when he tore up his knee while playing defensive back for Miami's Southwest High. In hindsight he realizes how beneficial physical therapy would have been, because he never fully regained his range of motion. Compounding matters was playing his first 11 big-league seasons on the hard artificial turf of Montreal's Olympic Stadium.
"A lot of people only see the glamour side of the game, when we're out on the field," said Dawson, currently a Marlins special assistant. "There's a lot of preparation that has to take place. For myself, I had a very painful career. I had to take medication almost daily to get through those three hours."

Dawson recounted the daily taping before games and icing afterwards before ever leaving the clubhouse. Sometimes the knees would flare up again and he'd have to ask his understanding wife, Vanessa, to run late-night errands for more ice bags.

As Dawson explained, "The damage was done very early on in my career. I couldn't really control that, but I could control how I reacted to that."

Back in 1972, orthopedic surgeons didn't understand knee anatomy very well and many of the reconstructive procedures didn't really restore the normal of ligaments. Knee surgery involved fairly large incisions to open the knee joint and look around just to see what was wrong. Torn cartilages were removed in their entirety rather than repairing or trimming just the torn portions. This usually lead to life-long knee problems and eventually arthritis at a fairly early age. The structures that were most poorly understood were the and the medial and lateral . Back then, if a knee was unstable from an ACL tear, the ACL's function wasn't thought to be important and the instability was addressed by taking nearby tendon structures and shifting them around the outside of knee joint. This left the knee with less instability but more stiffness. Fractures inside of the joint involving articular cartilage back than might have been identified but the treatment to didn't develop until the 1990's.

When I think of these procedures, I always reflect on my Chicago Bears hero, who's career was all too brief because his (initial injury in 1968) happened before the modern era of orthopedic knee surgery.

Chalk up Andre Dawson's hall of fame career to his courage but not his doctors. The modern era of orthopedic knee surgery didn't develop until the fiberoptics of the arthroscope and the MRI scanner (magnetic resonance imaging) were available in the early to mid-1980's. This lead to a renaissance of insight into functional knee anatomy. The development of many tools and techniques to do procedures that directly repair or replace and restore damaged intra-articular meniscal and articular cartilage and ligaments came from this new understanding.  have evolved and drastically improved over the last 30 years but alas the damage had been done too soon for this to help Dawson. I've read that Dawson has had as many as 12 knee surgeries. 

I didn't realize things had been that medically difficult for Dawson until I heard WSCR's Mike Mulligan ask him about how his health was lately in an . Apparently his knees don't give him pain nowadays but he still has to work around some stiffness issues particularly in cold weather. In 2006, at age 51, he had two surgeries on his left knee. That means that his cartilage was severely worn and with significant pain, arthroscopic options were no longer worth considering so the joint was replaced with metal and plastic components that resurface/replace the worn articular cartilage. I don't have details but in the interview Dawson implied something didn't go well with the first surgery (in October 2006) and it had to be revised (in December 2006). The second surgery seems to have held up. Currently, his right knee is bone on bone and it has an occasional flareup but generally any pain has calmed down since the left knee replacement (which now is protecting the worn right knee from overuse). He said in the interview that the right knee will need replacement eventually if and when the pain returns.

It's been a tough road to the Hall of Fame, Hawk. My heartfelt congratulations and thanks for some great Cub memories. On a personal note, I'm finally getting to make the trip to Cooperstown this May (after my daughter's graduation from nearby Syracuse University). I've been long promised a visit to the Hall of Fame.

If things fall into place, I just might make it two trips...seeing Hawk getting inducted into the HOF on July 25th at 1:30 pm, would be, well lets just say... hard to estimate a price (although admission to the ceremony is !).


This is a perfect example of why I read TCR. Well done, Dr. Hecht and well done, Hawk.

I agree totally. Well done. My Grandpa, Ryno & the Hawk are the reasons I became a Cub fan when I was a kid.

Excellent job, Doc!

Dawson was a tough SOB. It's good to hear that he's not crippled after Earl Cambelling himself. I wonder if the knee pain was partially responsible for his much publicized lack of patience at the plate.

CCO reports that Hendry during a radio interview a few days ago mentioned several times wanting a bench bat who can play both LF and RF and occasionally give Fukudome a day off against tough lefties.

I think I enjoyed this article the most of any you've written, Doc, and only partly because it doesn't involve any current Cub injuries. Great writing.

Brian LaHair? Bats left, throws right. Iowa's newest first baseman? Give me Micah Hoffpauir and Brad Snyder (both lefty bats) for the bench before this one. Is Brad Snyder still in the Cubs system? ---- The Cubs have signed first baseman Bryan LaHair to a minor league contract, two major league sources told LaHair will be invited to Chicago’s major league spring training, the sources said. With a strong camp, it's possible that he could make the team as a power bat off the bench. LaHair, 27, had spent his entire professional career with Seattle. He didn’t appear in the majors last year, and the Mariners removed him from their 40-man roster in October.

The beat writers would have fun with his name though: Hair of the dog is a colloquial English expression predominantly used to refer to ingestion of alcohol as treatment for a hangover. It is occasionally used with respect to dealing with the after effects of use of other recreational drugs. It is a shortened form of the expression “the hair of the dog that bit you.” (thanks for all the kind words, above)

I don't recall seeing anything about us re-signing Snyder, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Looks like Micah insurance, as you mentioned. He's played a little left as well. fwiw, Muskat is always updating on his progress in the Mexican League so I assume he's still a Cub. says there that he'll get an NRI as well...

Submitted by The Real Neal on Sat, 01/09/2010 - 11:38am. I don't recall seeing anything about us re-signing Snyder, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Looks like Micah insurance, as you mentioned. He's played a little left as well. ======================= REAL NEAL: Exactly. Bryan Lahair is actually a younger version of Micah Hoffpauir, and (like Hoffpauir) Lahair is a 1st baseman who for the first time in his career played more corner OF (both LF and RF) than 1B in 2009. The main difference between them is that Hoffpauir has more MLB experience, has had more success at the big league level, and has one minor league option left (so he can be sent back & forth to the minors as needed in 2010), while Lahair is out of options (in case he gets added to the Cubs 25-man roster at some point in 2010).

I hope they work him out at first base and give him at least a few innings in CF, just to see whether he could be a solid substitute for Hoffpauir or Fuld in the case that one of them struggles or gets injured. He should've gone to another organization, though. The Cubs are never going to give him much of a chance, and he has maybe one more year where it's possible he could establish himself as a platoon player for a team like the Nats or Pirates.

Submitted by Charlie on Sat, 01/09/2010 - 1:12pm. I hope they work him out at first base and give him at least a few innings in CF, just to see whether he could be a solid substitute for Hoffpauir or Fuld in the case that one of them struggles or gets injured. He should've gone to another organization, though. The Cubs are never going to give him much of a chance, and he has maybe one more year where it's possible he could establish himself as a platoon player for a team like the Nats or Pirates. =================== CHARLIE: Brad Snyder played mostly CF in 2008 (his last year in the Cleveland organization), and then the Cubs played him in RF at Iowa to take advantage of his plus-arm (one of the best in baseball), but he certainly has the speed and range to play CF. My concern about Snyder is whether he can be a part-time player. His main problem has always been making contact (793 strikeouts in less than 3000 career minor league plate appearances), and playing only occasionally probably won't help that. As you said, he really should have signed somewhere where he can get more-regular playing time (that's presuming he has in fact re-signed with the Cubs).

Thanks, Phil. I'm looking forward to your prospect list as well as your analysis when the Cubs finally announce all the NRI to spring training. I love reading about prospects and lesser known players and hoping someone valuable will come out of the blue.


Thanks, Cubster. Beautifully done.

oops...edited wrong comment box while playing around with special characters. woo...boredom. nothing of value was lost...

Excellent work Doc.

Vlad a Ranger, $5M plus incentives and an option 4 people got it correct in the free agent frenzy...Rob finally got one!

that gives "Bryan" the lead at 15 pts...

he's using

Buster Olney predicts Dawson goes to the HOF wearing a Cub hat (espn video, if you can get past the commercial)

yeah i have much less baseball knowledge than many posters here, but my assumption was that dawson enters as a cub

phil rogers whispers says Dawson almost had a Marlins hat on his HOF plaque...he's also spreading Heath Bell to Cubs rumors again: Dawson included a cap clause in the contract he signed to go to the Marlins in 1995, but the Hall responsibly stepped in to stop players (including Wade Boggs and Jose Canseco) from auctioning their historical ties. According to sources, the Cubs are kicking the tires again on Padres closer Heath Bell, as they did at the winter meetings.

CCO has a summary of Bruce Levine's Talking Baseball show...including commentary that Podsednik's contract with KC ($1.75M plus and option year at $2M) might bring Reed Johnson's price tag more in line with the Cubs budget for that right handed batting OF option to share time with Fukudome. Also another mention of Cub interest in Contreras and Smoltz. I listened to most of the show and it was 95% about the HOF. also a reminder that this week is the Cubs Caravan and the weekend will have Cubs Convention there should be some of the hype machine in gear this week.

Marlon Byrd and Reed Johnson? Well, I guess the Cubs would have a redundancy system for one outfield role.

It is just not going to make that much difference, CHARLIE, with the pitching staff assembled.

note sure if this has been posted yet, I'm sure somebody will let me know if it has Cubs still like Bell

Cubs still like Bell --- any one of these? Yahoo's Jeff Passan tweets that A. Chapman signs a $30M deal with an undisclosed NL team. Seems like the Bluejays, Angels and Redsox passed on the big ticket item. Makes Samardzija's deal look like peanuts. I'm sure there's gonna be more to follow. mlbtr speculates it's the Nats.

Passan follows up with a tweet that says it's a NL Central team (Reds) Reds "going after him like crazy," team source said. --- and more: Non-stop Delta flight left FLL for Cincinnati at 9:20 this morning. Another source said $30 million deal is for five years.

Yeah it does dwarf the Ninja contract, but I'm always willing to give a guy who has 102 in his left arm the entire safe full of money. I really like what I read about that kid. Didn't find much in a hunt to get some good video on him, but he might be scary good if he really throws 100.

his big knock on his fastball from what im told is his motion to his release and his balance...which isn't a huge deal from a corrections point of view. he's got a lot of motion up top with his shoulder/elbow (he keeps his elbow above his shoulder for those that care) and his landing foot isn't always as straight and repeatable-on-spot as it should be.

Besides the talent gap between the two, there's also the fact that this guy was a free agent, who at least had competed against higher competition. It will be interesting to see the length of the contract. If it's 6 years, that's probably not too bad a signing.

Espn ...Reds deal not yet complete

the entire safe full of money --- that's alot of Skyline Chili over 5 yrs

And a lot of gastrointestinal distress to go along with it.

not quite a confirmation, but a few more tweets that it's the Reds, so far Cards, Brewers and Pirates were eliminated as well.

5/30 has been the rumor so far, Cincinnati writer John Fay said they're still negotiating and deal could be up to 10 years...

another ESPN update a few minutes ago

from mark sheldon's twooter page...6 mins ago. "Details not finalized yet on Chapman. Reds sources indicate 5 years at $25 million w/ sixth yr option. Deal could be announced tonight." Cubs offer to retire Dawson's number if he goes in as a Cub?

Dawson was a special Cub. But not that special.

Watching Ch 5 TV tonight for their 10:30 pm Sunday sports extra show. I decided that I like watching Paula Faris do sports (I'd probably also like to see her do a few other things as well). Seriously, she knows what she's talking about and she's definitely got the MILF thing going. I'm also pitiful enough that I'd be happy hanging out talking sports with her for the fun of it plus the intelligent girl = sexy factor. In my world, Erin Andrews & Paula Faris are a current day Ginger vs. Marianne. In this one, I vote Marianne. Signing off as I comment on a blog from my mother's basement.... (sigh)

Don't get caught whackin' it. Your mother might fall and break her hip.

Ryan Church to Pirates, Aubrey Huff to Giants, official Chapman announcement today...

Three players that we could have used. suspended 2nd time for "drug of abuse"

6 yr deal worth 25-30M with payments spread out of over 10 years...well-done Reds.

If Aroldia Chapman signs a 5/25 or 5/30 deal with Cincinnati, it has to be a major league contract and not a minor league deal, meaning Chapman will have to be added immediately to the Reds 40-man roster. However, Chapman will get four minor league options, so the Reds will not have to rush him if he needs more time. He could spend 2010 at Intermediate "A" Dayton, 2011 at A+ Lynchburg, 2012 at AA Carolina, and 2013 at AAA Louisville if necessary, although I'm sure the Reds will try to move him along as quickly as possible to maximize their investment (just as the Cubs have done with Jeff Samardzija). .

6/30.25 with 16.25M of it a signing bonus spread over 10 years... he only gets about a $1m this year...

Kind words for both Byrd and Jaramillo from Josh Hamilton, who was in Chicago this past weekend...

Curious what Strasburg could have earned if he had the right to negotiate with all 30 MLB teams last year.

I would guess $60 million.

I just got a tweet that Angel Guzman's brother died of bullet wounds. Sure enuf, this just up

condolences to the Guzman family interesting article on what teams got from their free agent players and own players... as you'd expect, Cubs did below average (although not terrible) on "Non-Market Players" (arb-eligible and pre-arb players), but obviously a huge drop-off last year in their "after-market players" from 40 to 24 WARP-3.

WSCR says Greg Maddux is now an assistant to Jim Hendry.

not sure what the hell he's going to do, but neat

He would be an improvement to Lou, Rothschild, or Hendry. Those 3 fat fucks should watch their backs. We've got a new fat fuck in town.

Carry his golf clubs?
Maddux's duties will include helping with instruction for both major-leaguers and minor-leaguers during spring training, as well as scouting duties throughout the season. According to a source with knowledge of the signing, Maddux will be at the beck and call of Hendry during the season to evaluate minor-league affiliates and give the general manger input when trades or free-agent signings are being considered.
on another note, if there's any chance ever of a 100% HOF vote, it has to be Maddux, right?

I don't know. If Aaron, Ruth and Cobb didn't get it, and a complete media darling like Nolan Ryan didn't get it, I'm sure some idiot can find a reason not to vote for Maddux. All it probably takes is a snub, real or imagined, to some beat reporter in 1988 to do the trick.

Ryan wasn't that good, and there was a legitimate reason that Ruth et al didn't get 100%. The HoF should simply take the vote away from anyone who doesn't vote for Maddux. Though I am sure no writer would actually admit it, firing and public caning would be appropriate additional punishment I think.

Some yahoo probably won't vote in Maddux as some sort of grandstanding "no votes for the steroid era" nonsense or some other "no one should be elected unanimously if the Babe wasn't" nonsense. But yes, if anyone can get 100%, it's him.

Oh, baseball-related assistance. That's got to be a positive. Might sound weird, but has he completely ruled out pitching real games?

McGwire admits to using steroids of and on for about a decade, including during 98. His statement to the AP: "I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era."

I'm as shocked now as I will be when we find out Pujols has been juicing.

In related news, Barry Bonds admits that he NEVER used steroids and that McGwire is a big phony cheat.

In other big surprises, Sarah Palin will "report" for Fox News.

I knew McGwire had taken it up a level when I saw him in a California Chicken Cafe on Westwood Blvd in LA the winter before the '98 season. He was positively massive and on his plate were the bones of at least three whole chickens. He wore a tank top and his shoulders were covered with acne. I knew then the Cardinal would be having a big power year. And that chickens might be extinct by the turn of the century.

"I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era." check your bank account, asshole. whatever.

Recent comments

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  • Dolorous Jon Lester 7 hours 4 min ago (view)

    I acquired Trout over the winter in a keeper league. Not feeling too great about that either.


  • Hagsag 9 hours 58 min ago (view)

    Andrew Cashner still hasn't signed with anyone. Could be useful.


  • crunch 18 hours 1 min ago (view)

    the cleveland indians have released a statement that they are open for dialogue about the future of the team's name.

    twitter is all over it and seems to be all about going back to "cleveland spiders", an unrelated dead MLB team lineage in cleveland from the 1800s (some guy named cy young played for them).


  • crunch 21 hours 50 min ago (view)

    Q coming back in 4-6 weeks will be like a mid-season trade!  sigh...

    but yeah, they should be good in-house with expanded rosters unless they get slammed by IL stuff.


  • crunch 21 hours 51 min ago (view)

    MLB has confirmed 38 positives (players/coaches/personel/etc) so far.


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 34 min ago (view)

    With 17 pitchers likely on the 30-man MLB Active List roster for the first two weeks and then probably 15 pitchers on the 28-man Active List for the next two weeks after that, the Cubs should be able to "bullpen" games quite a bit for the first month. They won't really need five starters. 


  • crunch 23 hours 43 min ago (view)

    the cubs were searching car seats for coins to sign the scraps they managed to get this offseason.  i imagine doing everything "in house" might be on the table.

    the ricketts will need all the money they can spare to dump into GOP elections, too.  priorities.  btw, yes the family has been dumping 100s of thousand (to the tune of millions combined) over the past few months into state elections in areas they don't live in.  wisconsin, nevada, new york, georgia, etc...millions...many millions of dollars all over the country.


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 14 min ago (view)

    jdrnym: Once the MLB regular season starts, the "Practice Squad" will be a sub-group of the Club Player Pool, as will be the MLB Active List roster and the various MLB injured lists. 


  • jdrnym 1 day 15 min ago (view)

    All makes sense, but I think there is one important point of clarification in there -- are you using "practice squad" and "Club Player Pool" interchangeably? If so, I understood the first sentence of your third-to-last paragraph above to mean that Mills/Sadler/Underwood could be outrighted and still be in the Pool, therefore retaining their eligibility to re-selected to the major league active roster later in the season.


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 15 min ago (view)

    jdrnym: Zack Short is still on Optional Assignment to the minors (as are Alzolay, M. Amaya, R. Garcia, Maples, T. Miller, Norwood, Rea, M. Rodriguez, and Steele), but he can be recalled at any time without restriction (no "ten-day rule") because he was optioned to the minors prior to the transaction freeze in March. 


  • crunch 1 day 26 min ago (view)

    angels are missing 10-ish players from today's workout and mike trout isn't sure he'll participate this year (pregnant wife, newborn on the way).  welcome to the angels, maddon.


  • Hagsag 1 day 10 hours ago (view)

    Are ther any FA starting pitchers that would be an addition to take a starting spot?


  • QuietMan 1 day 21 hours ago (view)

    I'm thinking players should demand that this be added to their list.  "Sorry Honey, can't do it."

    Thanks Phil.


  • crunch 1 day 22 hours ago (view)

    or washing the dishes turns out to be popping wheelies on a motorcycle riding around scottsdale...

    jeff kent deserves to be in the HOF...lou whitaker needs to get in first...


  • Arizona Phil 2 days 28 min ago (view)

    Q-MAN: Yes, unless "washing the dishes" is listed as a forbidden off-field activity in his contract 


  • crunch 2 days 57 min ago (view)

    oh boy...chatwood and a.mills in the rotation...because the minor league system sure as hell don't have much to offer for competition.