Three for all

Andre Dawson, Doug Harvey and Whitey Herzog take their place among baseball’s immortals

July 25, 2010
Andre Dawson was presented his plaque on Sunday. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Three new teammates – Hawk, the White Rat, and god - were added the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s roster – and the trio was thrilled to become members of this legendary squad.

At the Induction Ceremony held outside at the Clark Sports Center on Sunday afternoon, approximately 10,000 spectators were on hand to witness the coronation of player Andre Dawson, manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey. From this day forward they will forever be members of the greatest club ever assembled.

Under come early clouds and occasional rain, the day’s production began with the introduction of 47 members of the Hall of Fame returning to pay their respects to the latest members of the fraternity.

Harvey’s speech, prerecorded due to voice concerns and shown on screens throughout the site, focused on the role of the arbiter in the game.

“I realize that for many of you fans, this may be the only time in your life you will hear from a major league umpire, so there are a few things I would like to share with you,” said Harvey, nicknamed god. “I have heard it said that umpires are a necessary evil. Well, we are necessary, but we are not evil. We are hard working and dedicated people whose primary interest is to make sure the game is played fairly. We are the integrity of the game.

“I studied my rule book two hours a day for every day that I worked in the minor leagues. Two hours every day, and I never missed,” he added. “All you players, managers, umpires, broadcasters or writers at any level, I suggest you know the rules, the real rules, not the made up ones.”

Harvey would also share with the audience the burden the lifestyle of an umpire places on a family.

“During the season, baseball was the most important thing in my life. It demanded that I travel constantly, every three to four days doing to a different city. There are no homestands for an umpire,” Harvey said. “It kept me from my family for the whole season, and they felt the sacrifice as much as I did. You have to realize that my average for being home and sleeping in my own bed from 1962 to 1968 was three nights a season, because we didn’t live in a major league city.

“I’d fly into San Diego, get my wife and children, and drive to L.A., work three games, then my wife would drive the kids home, and I would hop a plane to the next city,” he added. “My wife kept a picture of me by the phone so that when I called, the boys could see my face. In 1969, the Padres came to San Diego, and then I average about nine nights a season at home. Nine nights in seven months.”

According to Harvey, his father, years ago, told him that someday he would wake up and realize what he had accomplished.

Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson (left) poses with Whitey Herzog and his new Hall of Fame plaque. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)“Today, I woke up in Cooperstown, and now I know what he meant. As we all know, Cooperstown is the home of baseball. One of the many duties of the home plate umpire is to make sure that the runner touches home. Well, if you are a true baseball fan, you need to visit Cooperstown. This is home. And you need to promise yourself that you’ll touch home before the end of the game. I’ll be watching you to make sure.”

For Herzog, his enshrinement is the direct result of the help of others.

“When something like this happens to you, you say to yourself, ‘How did this happen?’ And then you start thinking about all the people, good people you worked with, all the good people you worked for, all the good coaches that worked for you,” Herzog said. “And I’m not here because I’m a player. I’m here because of managing. And I had a lot of good players play for me.”

Herzog would then say that none of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for some illustrious people, including high on the list fellow Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel. The White Rat first crossed paths with The Old Perfessor while attending a New York Yankees rookie camp in 1954.

“When I met Stengel, it was like an enlightening thing because I would go to bed at night, and instead of thinking about girls I would be thinking about what he talked about all day,” said Herzog with a smile. “He had is own language and it took me hours sometimes to figure him out.

“Casey was an outstanding teacher, he was a very smart baseball man and he and I became fast friends,” he added. “Casey told me so many things that I’ve been using the rest of my life. But for some reason he knew that I was going to be a big league manager. My high school teachers would have died if they had heard him say that. But the big thing is he knew. So, as smart as I am, most of it is because of Casey Stengel. He’s been awful good to me.”

Herzog ended his induction speech by relaying a query he’s been receiving for over seven months

“Ever since December, every question that anybody asks me is this: What’s if feel like to be a Hall of Famer? Well, I don’t know. I kept saying I won’t know until July 25th,” Herzog said. “Well, now I can tell you what it feels like. Being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York is like going to heaven before you die.”

Doug Harvey is the ninth umpire to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)Dawson spent the majority of his speech extolling the virtues of the National Pastime to the youngsters out there, repeating the theme 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,” he said. “Like most of us up here, by the age of eight, I was using a busted broom handle for a bat and using rocks as a ball. By then I knew I was born to play this game. I dabbled in other sports, sure – my knees are proof of that – but baseball was my love. And baseball is where I belonged. And I found out quickly that if you love this game, the game will love you back.

“It’s still a great game, too. It bothers me when I hear people knock the game. There’s nothing wrong with the game of baseball. Baseball will from time to time, and like anything else in life, fall victim to the mistakes that people make. It’s not pleasant and it’s not right. Those mistakes have hurt the game and taken a toll on all of us. Individuals have chosen the wrong road and have chosen that as their legacy. Others still have a chance to choose theirs. Do not be lured to the dark side. It’s a stain on the game, a stain gradually being removed.

“But that’s the people, not the game. There’s nothing wrong with the game. Never has been. I think people just forget why we ever got involved in the game in the first place. When we were nine of 10 years old, we just loved playing the game. What we found was that if you put your heart into this game, if you love this game, the game will love you back. That’s why I made it here and anyone who can hear my voice right now can be standing here, as I am.”

Dawson would close by sharing a story about his mother, Mattie Brown, who passed away four years ago.

“She was my mom. She was my dad. She was my big sister. My big brother. My best friend. She was my whole world for a very long time in my life. And I only wish she were here to see this,” said the Hawk. “Before she passed, she dreamt of this moment, she dreamt of this day. She promised me it would happen. And my mother never, never broke a promise to us. She said it’s inevitable, what God has planned no man can change. More than anyone else or anything else, this is for my mom.”

The Induction Ceremony also included a performance from music legend John Fogerty of his classic baseball song Centerfield. The baseball-shaped guitar he brought on stage was later in the day placed in a new exhibit case on the Museum’s first floor.

The day’s scheduled also saw longtime New York Daily News sportswriter Bill Madden accept the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and broadcaster Jon Miller, who works for the San Francisco Giants as well as being featured on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, accept the Ford C. Frick Award. Both were honored for excellence in their respective fields.

Bill Francis is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum