Cooperstown, N.Y.- I was there on the day Andre Dawson arrived at the Chicago Cubs spring training camp in 1987, offering to sign a blank free-agent contract.
And I was there last Sunday to watch Dawson inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“The Hawk” delivered a magnificent speech, befitting his marvelous career and classy manner. He thanked the game of baseball for giving him an opportunity. He thanked the Montreal Expos, who took a chance on him following his stint at Florida A&M University. And he thanked the Cubs for rejuvenating his career. And mostly he thanked his late mother and grandmother for instilling within him the virtues of patience and perseverance that proved invaluable throughout his life.
“I will never forget his day, and I will never forget those who helped make it possible,” Dawson said as intermittent rain showers doused the crowd of about 10,000. “I will never forget that it was my love for the game that propelled me and kept it going when times got tough. I will never forget that if you love this game, it will love you back.”
There were 50 Hall of Famers on the stage behind Dawson and fellow inductees Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey.
“As we all know, Cooperstown is the home of baseball,” Harvey said during his speech, which was pre-recorded due to the after-effects of a bout with throat cancer. “One of the many duties of the home plate umpire is to make sure that the runner touches home. Well, if you are a true baseball fan, you need to visit Cooperstown. This is home.”
Harvey is the ninth umpire elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The 3-hour ceremony also featured the honoring of Jon Miller and Bill Madden as the Ford C. Frick and J.G. Taylor Spink Award winners, respectively.
Herzog managed for 18 seasons and led the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series title. He became the 19th former big league manager inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York,” Herzog said, “is like going to heaven before you die.”