Just one knee surgery can derail a baseball player from his major league career. Andre Dawson had 12 knee surgeries and finished his career in Cooperstown.
Dawson, known as the “Hawk”, was only the second player in baseball history to reach 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases.
“If Andre didn’t have bad knees, he would have finished with 600 home runs and 500 stolen bases,” said former teammate Shawon Dunston.
The eight-time All-Star outfielder battled constant rehab and treatment on his knees to survive 21 seasons in the big leagues. Born on July 10, 1954 in Miami, Fla., Dawson was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1975 and played only 186 minor league games before joining the parent club. In June of 1977, Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams made Dawson the Expos starting centerfielder. He responded by winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
With Montreal, Dawson won six straight Gold Glove Awards and twice finished second in MVP balloting (1981 and 1983). He led the league in hits and total bases in 1983.
“I took pride in being a four- or five-tool player, and being consistent,” said Dawson.
The artificial turf at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium took a toll on Dawson’s knees and his stolen base totals began to decline after 1982. By 1987, he left Montreal as a free agent and signed a blank contract with Chicago. He asked the Cubs to pay him what he was worth.
In his first year with the new club, Dawson led the league in home runs with 49, RBI with 137, batted .287, won a Gold Glove Award and was named National League MVP despite the fact that the Cubs finished last in the National League East.
“I don’t think I ever managed a greater player or a human being,” said Don Zimmer, who managed Dawson in Chicago.
Dawson would go on to win his eighth Gold Glove Award in 1988 to add to his four Silver Slugger Awards. He played for the Boston Red Sox from 1993-94 and finished his career with the Florida Marlins from 1995-1996. He posted a .279 career average with 438 home runs, 1,591 RBI and 314 stolen bases. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
“No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did better than Andre Dawson,” said Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg during his Hall of Fame induction speech. “He’s the best I’ve ever seen.”