Monday, May 12, 2008

Andre: You'll always be a Hall of Famer in my heart

Andre Dawson, the slender slugger with the cannon arm will be on the ballot again in 2009, and his entry to Baseball's Hall of Fame will be determined by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Dawson's highest percentage of votes received was 65.9 percent in 2008. During Ryne Sandberg's induction speech at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2005, he mentioned former teammates he respected because they played the game right. Dawson was high on that list.

"No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson," Sandberg said of the rifle-armed outfielder known as "The Hawk." "He's the best I've ever seen.

"I watched him win an MVP for a last-place team in 1987 [with the Cubs], and it was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in baseball," Sandberg said. "He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here someday."

In 21 big-league seasons, beginning in 1976 with the Montreal Expos, Dawson batted .279 with 438 home runs, 1,591 RBIs and stole 314 bases. Dawson was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1977 and won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1987, his first season with the Chicago Cubs, when he hit .287 and led the league with 49 home runs and 137 RBIs.

Dawson joined the Cubs in an unusual way. After nine years in Montreal, he wanted to find a team that played on grass, unlike the artificial turf at Olympic Stadium. He approached the Cubs and general manager Dallas Green with a fill-in-the-blank contract. Dawson signed on March 9, 1987, for a base salary of $500,000 with $250,000 in incentives if he made the All-Star team, started in the All-Star Game and won the NL MVP. He did all three.

It was one of the best bargains in baseball.

Special Note: Thank you, Andre, it has been such a pleasure to watch you play with that "burning intensity" that thrilled Cub fans everywhere. We will always have a special place for you in our hearts. Every year I've watched all the Cubs games on WGN TV and whenever my beloved Cubbies were in a jam and needed that hit to score a run there was no one that I would rather see advancing to the plate than "the hawk." You are a solid gold Hall of Famer.

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