Despite his disappointment, justice has been done, and the Hall of Fame has served baseball history well.
Andre Dawson will enter the Hall of Fame as a member of the Montreal Expos.
Was there really any debate about it?
Let’s be clear on this: The Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum of baseball, and has the duty to best represent baseball’s history as accurately as possible. As such, Andre Dawson left his biggest mark in baseball in the “outpost” of Montreal. In 11 seasons with Montreal, Dawson batted .285, had 225 home runs and had 838 RBI. He also had 1,575 hits (out of his total of 2,774) in Montreal. If that weren’t enough, he won 6 of his 8 gold gloves, 4 of his 5 silver slugger awards in Montreal, and was the rookie of the year in 1977. Lastly, Dawson the only Expo to hit 200 home runs and steal 200 bases. That is significant, and worth preserving. 5 of his 8 all star appearances are as a Cub, but this can be written off because the All Star game meant nothing then. He also benefited from a larger, more passionate fan base voting for him. His biggest and best accomplishment was in 1987 when he was named National League MVP by batting .287 and swatting 49 home runs as a member of the Cubs. Unfortunately for Dawson, his accomplishments in Chicago pale when compared to what he did in Montreal. You can view Dawson’s career stats here. We can even have the debate as to whether or not Dawson even belongs in the Hall. Does his name belong in the Hall, alongside the likes of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, etc? Or is he there because of the admission of many good, but not great guys, such as Jim Rice?
In 2001, two seasons after the legendary Wade Boggs tried to make a mockery of the Hall by wanting to enter as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray (where he spent 2 seasons in the twilight of his career) instead of a Boston Red Sox (where he spent 10 years) in exchange for a neat sum of money (reportedly), the decision was taken away from the player as to which cap he wants to wear on his plaque. He is now in there wearing a Red Sox cap, as he should be. I’m sure some decisions are tough ones for the Hall of Fame. But when a player spends nearly twice as much time in one place as any other, and establishes important career benchmarks there, is it really that hard of a decision to make?
It’s easy to see why a player would want to enter the Hall as a Chicago Cub as opposed to a Montreal Expo. When a player’s career is over, the fat paychecks go away with it, but the player can still earn a lucrative living on the autograph and memorabilia circuit. Dawson will draw a lot more attention as he travels around the U.S. marketing himself as “former Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer” as opposed to a “former Montreal Expos Hall of Famer”. However I am very disappointed in his reaction upon hearing that he will enter as an Expo.
Dawson, upon learning that his plea to enter the Hall as a Cub:
“But I think their decision had been made. It was a little gut-wrenching for me to hear that, but it’s their decision, and I respect that, and from there I move on.
“The Hall clearly stated their major concern is the history of the game, and that’s what really played into their decision,” Dawson said. “I’m disappointed. I can probably say that, because Chicago was my preference.”
As an Expos fan, it stings to hear that for sure. What was so bad about his time here? Ok, fine. The turf at the Big O wrecked his knees. His numbers would have been even better if he had the luxury of playing on natural grass. He underwent several surgeries and was treated for his bad joints after every game. Playing on natural grass for his whole career would have surely vaulted him in to 3,000 hit, 500 home run territory, which puts him among the very best to ever play the game.
It’s funny how we forget though. And it’s funny that Dawson seems to have forgotten as well. Once upon a time, 30 years ago, the Expos were a bigger deal in Montreal than the Canadiens. I was an infant then, so I can’t tell you about it first hand, but between 1979 and 1984, the Expos drew in excess of 2 million fans in 4 of those 5 seasons. You can see their full attendance report here. 2 million fans is a lot of people, and a lot of interest in a team. Andre Dawson is one of only a few players tho will ever wear the Expos cap in the Hall. Tim Raines is working his way up the ladder with the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (he will get in one day, and it will be as an Expo) and perhaps Vlad Guerrero as well (though he could very well be an Angel if he gets in).
The dilemma I now face is whether or not I should go to Cooperstown to see his induction speech in person. It’s not a secret that he preferred to go in as a Cub, but he seems to genuinely disappointed that he’s going in as an Expo. I skipped Gary Carter’s, and I’m on the fence about Dawson. If and when Raines gets in, I definitely plan on being at his ceremony.
Do you have any recollections of Andre Dawson? How about thoughts on the Hall of Fame? Should a player have the choice as to what cap he wears in to the Hall of Fame, no matter where his contributions were made?