Andre Dawson was the ultimate five-tool player and his combination of power, speed, hitting ability, fielding prowess and a strong arm earned him the nickname "The Hawk." Dawson is the only player who received enough votes to be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame this year but just a glance at his resume shows that he should have glided into Cooperstown a long time ago: 1977 NL Rookie of the Year, eight time All-Star, eight time Gold Glove winner, NL MVP runner-up in 1982 when he led the Montreal Expos to their first and only playoff appearance, 1987 NL MVP in his first season with the Chicago Cubs (the first player from a last place team to win that award), 438 career home runs (36th all-time, ahead of old school Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Duke Snider and Al Kaline) and 1591 career RBI (34th all-time, just four RBI behind Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and George Brett and seven RBI ahead of Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby and Harmon Killebrew). Dawson's knees absorbed a terrible pounding during his early years patrolling the AstroTurf outfield for the Expos but despite injuries that robbed him of some of his mobility and caused him great pain he still totaled 314 career stolen bases, joining Willie Mays and Barry Bonds as the only players in MLB history with at least 400 career home runs plus at least 300 career stolen bases.
It is fitting to mention Bonds' name in connection with Dawson's, because it is partially Bonds' fault that Dawson had to wait so long to join the Hall of Fame; when Bonds and the other performance-enhancing drug (PED) using cheaters made a travesty of MLB's record book in the 1990s and 2000s it became easy to overlook the accomplishments of stars from the 1970s and 1980s like Dawson and Dale Murphy (a two-time NL MVP, seven time All-Star and five time Gold Glove winner who still has not been inducted in the Hall of Fame). How could players who "only" totaled 350-450 home runs be elected to the Hall of Fame when players began routinely cranking out 50-plus home run seasons en route to astronomical career totals exceeding 500 home runs? I am not interested in parsing out how many home runs Bonds, Alex Rodriguez or any other cheaters hit when they were clean--all of those guys cheated the game, cheated themselves, cheated the fans and cheated the legitimate Hall of Famers who came before them and I hope that the Hall of Fame voters reject all of them the way that Mark "I'm not here to talk about the past" McGwire has been rejected so far. The Hall should spend the next decade or so inducting every omitted player from the 1970s and 1980s and the few spotless guys from the 1990s like Ken Griffey and Frank Thomas but I hope that I never see Bonds, Rodriguez or Roger Clemens in Cooperstown. How can the Hall exclude Pete Rose as a player for conduct that he did as a manager and then induct players whose actions tainted the sport's history and records?
The sad postscript to Dawson's election to the Hall of Fame is that the honor came three years after his mother passed away--but at least Dawson can be somewhat comforted by the fact that Mattie Brown, like any good mother, never doubted her son's talent or his place in history, telling him "Baby, it's gonna happen. Don't worry about it. Just be patient. You did what you did for a long time. The Hall of Fame, they can prolong your entry but they won't take it away from you."