Andre Dawson is a Hall-of-Famer
On Wednesday afternoon in the lobby of the Indianapolis Marriott I saw Andre Dawson doing a MLB TV interview. I waited until he was done, shook his hand and hugged him. The conversation was short, because there was no need for words. We go back to 1976, his debut with the Expos at Jarry Park. He is a friend. He has borderline Hall-of-Fame numbers, but is a full-fledged Hall-of-Fame man and that combination should get him enshrined at Cooperstown with the announcement on Jan. 6.
I never understand readers and fans when I receive emails or read blogs making fun of media members because they write something nice about a truly nice man. It's almost as if it's a sign of weakness. Say something good about John McDonald and they point out his anemic offensive stats and say he doesn't deserve the praise and is only being written about because he's a nice guy. That is so bizarre. Life is more than OPS and WHIP and VORP and Range Factor. There's the human factor.
Andre Dawson is the kind of man that represents what is good about baseball. He's not perfect as none of us are, but he is profoundly human and understands his responsibility to his family, his team, his fans and the game. He tore up a knee as a kid in school and never complained, but never played a 100-percent healthy game in all his years in the majors, the first nine seasons on the rock hard, artificial turf of Olympic Stadium. Check his numbers in that light.
I remember Hawk as a rookie in 1977. He was shy and unsure of himself in dealing with media and the public. I was a young p.r. guy helping him with the media. I watched him grow. I saw him go from a borderline left fielder with a weak arm, to a Gold Glove centre fielder that runners feared to challenge.
I remember a short hop off the fence in deep left centre that bounced 30-feet straight up. Dawson waited patiently for the ball to come down, barehanded it and threw a flat-footed one hopper to third base, nailing a stunned Steve Sax. I remember Hawk coming out of the training room for post-game interviews with bags of ice on both knees the size of Volkswagen airbags. He never talked about his knees. I remember a game at Three Rivers Stadium with a triple and a swooping, graceful catch in the alley, then the bus was held for him because he needed extra ice time. He emerged and could not walk onto the bus without ratcheting himself up on the arm rails. He played the next night.
I remember a spring training where he reported to camp during a workout and came to the outer diamond in West Palm Beach in uniform ready to go. The workout stopped and teammates applauded and came over for their hug from their leader. On a team with Gary Carter, he was the leader.
The kid from Miami who in 1977 was too shy to do interviews emerged into a master of the "what-needed-to-be-said" interview by the time he left Montreal to seek his fortune with the Cubs. His smile lit up a room and his laugh got his teammates to stop and ask what was going on. When Tim Raines went to rehab after the 1982 season, it was Dawson that made sure he lockered next to his wayward teammate after that and that he remembered what needed to be done. Raines stayed on the straight and narrow and named his second son Andre.
Dawson is a man's man, never holier than thou, but more often better than thou. My youngest son was born in 1993, seven years after Dawson left the Expos. I named my son Patrick Andre, hoping that some of his namesake's quiet fortitude would rub off as he grew up. So far so good.
Hawk is a Hall-of-Famer, not just for the numbers.