The Hawk in the Hall
When I was a kid, pretty much my first memory of the Chicago Cubs was an old opening game montage in which Andre Dawson could be seen stepping up out of the dugout to acknowledge the cheers of the Wrigley faithful. He quickly became my favorite player.
The why is simple -- although he could barely stand due to his wrecked knees, he was immensely talented. He had a great arm in the outfield, his bat speed was phenomenal, and he put up MVPesque numbers despite being barely able to stand due to his wrecked knees. Dawson was Awesome. It was evident.
As the years went by, I collected dozens of his baseball cards. As has been written here before, I was crushed when he left the Cubs 1 homer shy of 400 to play for the Red Sox. And I was thrilled when, as a university freshman, I bought a Cubs jersey with the #8 on the back.
Ever since he retired following the 1996, Cub fans like me have been stumping for his inclusion into the Hall of Fame. We saw his 2,774 hits and said they were enough. We noted his 503 doubles, 98 triples, 438 homeruns, 1,591 RBI, and 314 steals, his 8 trips to the All Star game, his 8 Gold Gloves, his Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards, and then we pointed out that he did it all on bad knees. To have played so well for so long with such injuries shows that Dawson had heart.
Back when he retired, 438 homeruns made him almost a no-brainer. Then guys like McGwire, Sosa, Rodriguez and Bonds came onto the scene and suddenly 400 homeruns was nothing. By the time he was eligible he was being judged against unfair, artificially-injected standards, and it hurt his chances.
About a year ago, having worn my #8 Cubs jersey regularly, I decided to show my love of Dawson some more this time by buying a #10 Expos uniform. It's now appropriate, because he has finally received the votes he deserved and, chances are, he will be enshrined representing a team that no longer exists.
After all, his 867 games as a Cub are dwarfed by his 1,443 games in Montreal. And although he hit only 51 fewer homeruns in 2,366 fewer at bats, despite having the best years of his career in Chicago, Cooperstown will put an Expos cap on his plaque.
I'm okay with that. I'm just glad he's there. And hopefully come this summer I will be in Cooperstown too, along with thousands of other Cub fans, bowing to Dawson again and chanting his name.