COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – “The Hawk” has landed in Cooperstown.
Andre Dawson, who endured 12 knee surgeries to forge an impressive 21-year major league career, was inducted Sunday into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming just the 203rd player in the game’s long history to receive the honor.
“Thank you for welcoming this rookie to your team” said Dawson, who played for a decade in Montreal before signing with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent. “I didn’t play this game with this goal in mind, but I’m living proof that if you love this game, the game will love you back. I am proof that any young person who can hear my voice right now can be standing here as I am.”
Dawson, 56, took the podium as Cubs and Expos fans roared their approval and began his speech by thanking his loyal fans from both cities. He then poked fun at several Hall of Famers on the stage behind him.
“Tom Lasorda, he taught me how to get a free meal,” Dawson said of the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager. “You eat half your meal, then complain and get a whole new free one.”
Dawson, an All-Star eight times who had 438 homers, 2,774 hits, 1,591 RBIs and 314 stolen bases in his career from 1976-96, then got serious, warning players not to be lured to the dark side of using performance-enhancing drugs.
“There’s nothing wrong with the game of baseball,” said Dawson, one of three players to hit 400 homers and steal 300 bases. “Baseball will, from time to time like anything else in life, fall victim to the mistakes that people make. It’s not pleasant and it’s not right. Individuals have chosen the wrong road, and they’re choosing that as their legacy. Those mistakes have hurt the game and taken a toll on all of us.”
Dawson was part of a class that included former manager Whitey Herzog, umpire Doug Harvey, broadcaster Jon Miller and sports writer Bill Madden.
Herzog, 78, who played eight nondescript years for four teams, managed for 18 seasons, 11 with the St. Louis Cardinals after stints in Texas, California and Kansas City. He guided the Royals to three consecutive playoff appearances in the 1970s and led the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series title.
The Cards also made World Series appearances in 1985 and 1987 under Herzog, who finished his managing career in 1990 with a record of 1,279-1,123, a .532 winning percentage.
“Ever since I was elected in December, people have asked, ‘What’s it feel like to be a Hall of Famer?’ ” Herzog said. “Now I can tell you what it feels like. It feels like going to heaven before you die.”
Harvey, 80, who worked in the National League from 1962 to 1992, called 4,673 regular-season games during his major league career and also umpired five World Series, six All-Star Games and nine National League Championship Series.
Nicknamed “God” during his heyday because of his authoritative demeanor on the field, Harvey lived up to the moniker on his special day.
Suffering from throat cancer, Harvey recorded his 20-minute acceptance speech in the spring. It began raining while the video was playing, but by the time he addressed the crowd the sun was shining.
“I want you to notice that I stopped the rain,” he deadpanned in closing.
Harvey, the ninth umpire to be inducted and the first living umpire inducted since Al Barlick in 1989, joked afterward that “I had less rainouts than anyone else in the world.”