Hawk lands in Cooperstown

Andre Dawson takes Orientation Tour in preparation for July 25 induction

May 04, 2010
The Hall of Fame's Erik Strohl shows new electee Andre Dawson where his plaque will reside in Cooperstown. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

View a video of Andre Dawson's career highlights

Despite 14 knee operations and two knee replacements, the Hawk flew through his new home Tuesday afternoon.

In Cooperstown for his Baseball Hall of Fame Orientation Tour, former Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins outfielder Andre Dawson and wife Vanessa got ready for his induction this summer by meeting with staff and receiving a tour throughout the Museum. Afterward, he seemed overwhelmed by the experience when sharing his thoughts with assembled media.

“A lot of history, quite informative, and I’ve used the word overwhelming on numerous occasions since the announcement, but what an experience,” Dawson told the assembled media while sitting in the Hall of Fame’s Plaque Gallery. “Indeed I’m thankful to have this opportunity today and I look forward to July 25 (Induction Day). For me, today helps get my feet underneath me a little bit more because I know that things are going to speed up. It’s going to be quite a nervous experience for me, but today is really helpful.”

Dawson was a supremely talented ballplayer who in his prime was arguably the most complete player in the game. During a big-league playing career that spanned 21 seasons, Dawson, whose fielding prowess in the outfield earned him the nickname “The Hawk,” hit .279 with 438 home runs, 1,591 runs batted in and 314 stolen bases. And despite a few specks of gray in his hair, the still fit Dawson doesn’t look too removed from being able to wow a ballpark crowd today.

“When I walk through this gallery, I feel like I’m on sacred ground,” Dawson said. “You’re talking about the greatest players to ever play the game. I can’t begin to say enough about how exhilarating the feeling is to just walk into the Hall of Fame.

“I finally feel that sense that I’ve arrived now and I’m one of the greatest players to have ever played the game. I’m one of a couple hundred players to be enshrined as one of the elite to have ever played the game and that’s a tremendously wonderful feeling.”

Elected to the Hall of Fame on Jan. 6 in his ninth try on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, Dawson was the National League Rookie of the Year with the Expos in 1977 and the NL Most Valuable Player in 1987 with the Cubs. And much of the credit for his success on the field he gives to the women in his life.

“I was driven by discipline that was instilled in me through women who were my mentors - being my mother (Mattie Brown), my grandmother (Eunice Taylor) and then my wife,” Dawson said. “My mom always told me that this day was inevitable and she said just be ready when that day comes.”

While he called Jan. 6 – the day he received the phone call telling him he was a Hall of Famer – the greatest moment of his baseball career, Dawson also knows he has a big induction speech to give on July 25.

“I’m pretty much done with it (the speech), just tweaking it a little bit here and there and kind of putting it all together now.

“I don’t want to talk about things that people already know. I want to keep it simple at the request of the Hall and all of the Hall of Fame members, because Yogi (Berra) already said if it’s 20 minutes he’s going to get up and leave,” Dawson said with a smile. “I want to address the youth a little bit, and maybe a little bit on the status of the game. And of course you have to thank some people. And I want to save the end for dedicating it to my mother and my grandmother.”

And what about those knees?

“I asked a lot of the lower half of my body and probably pushed it a little too much at the end,” Dawson said. “But they continue to still hold me up, so that’s all it can ask.”

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum