|August 2010||Vol. 1 No. 1|
Dawson inducted into Hall of Fame
Andre Dawson ended his career officially with 438 home runs, but his emotional acceptance speech in Cooperstown should add one more to that total. By all accounts, he knocked it out of the park. His speech was comical and reminescant, but more importantly, it was filled with positive messages for people young and old.
Dawson was one of three enshrinees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 25. Whitey Herzog, who managed the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series victory, and longtime umpire Doug Harvey were also enshrined.
Dawson had the distinct honor of being the only player inducted this year.
Dawson’s speech touched on family issues, self-esteem and social responsibility. He challenged youth to be responsible for their actions. He emphasized that the guys on that stage would not have made it to that point if they lived their lives like they had nothing to lose.
On the stage were 47 Hall of Famers including Henry “Hank” Aaron, Willie Mays, Ricky Henderson, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn and a host of other all-time greats.
Dawson had a stellar collegiate career at FAMU, where he played under legendary Coach Costa “Pop” Kittles from 1973-1975. He was drafted by the Montreal Expos his junior year and went on to the majors to make his mark on the league.
The journey was troublesome for Dawson though. Twelve knee operations, including two replacements, some attributed to playing on the hard artificial turf for 11 years in Montreal, threatened to end his career early.
Dawson rebounded after walking-on to the Chicago Cubs and earning the National League MVP in 1987, while being on the last place team. He was not paraded into Chicago though. He had to take a major risk in order to convince Chicago to allow him to play for them.
Dawson showed up at the Chicago Cubs training camp and offerd to sign a blank contract. He would not be denied as he had his most productive season that year and was signed to an extension with the Cubs.
Dawson, a Miami native, did not forget the people who helped him make it along the way.
“I want to thank Paul Como, my coach at Miami Southwest Senior High School, for moving me from the infield to the outfield,” Dawson said.
He added, “And I also want to thank Coach Costa Kittles at Florida A&M University, who gave me a chance as a walk-on, when no other college would look at me because of a knee injury.”
Those comments drew thunderous applause and underscored the connection Dawson kept with his mentors.
He held family close to his heart. He spoke of his grandmother, who told him education was a stepping-stone to his future. He shed a tear when talking of his mother. She passed four years ago, but assured him it was inevitable that he would make it into The Hall.
“More than anyone else, or anything else, this is for my mom. She raised her family and taught her kids right from wrong,” he said with tears in his eyes.
Dawson, known throughout his playing days as “Hawk,” was known as an intimidating figure. He was everything but, when talking about his immediated family. Of his kids, Darius and Amber, Dawson said, “In the eyes of the world, you might only be two people; but in the eyes of two people, you are the world.”
He thanked his wife, Vanessa for helping nurse him for 20 seasons while he played ball.
“She would get up at 11 p.m. and get me ice bags and pain medications and more ice bags and anti-inflamatories,” Dawson added.
It’s been a long time coming for Andre Dawson. He has now come full circle to work for the Florida Marlins, after enduring a painful journey to end up in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. As stated in his speech, he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.
Making the Hall of Fame was not the original goal of Dawson when he began playing baseball, but he said it was a testament of what could result from hard work.
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