Written by Fred Mitchell   
Thursday, 06 November 2008

What is so magical about 500 home runs?

It just might be the ticket to the Hall of Fame.

There are a handful of players from the so-called “Steroid Era” who might be denied admission to the Hall of Fame once they become eligible because of their incriminating use of banned substances. Rafael Palmeiro, for one, comes to mind. And the jury is still out on a few others.

Yet one particularly revered former slugger has yet to be included in the hallowed hall, even though his distinguished career saw him fall short of the 500 home run mark. In my opinion, Andre Dawson definitely belongs with the most elite who ever played the game.

Before Sammy Sosa joined the Chicago Cubs, the fan favorite of the Wrigley Field bleacherites was Dawson. "The Hawk" wound up with 438 career homer runs, eight Gold gloves and an enduring respect for the game.

Dawson played the game with so much enthusiasm, dedication and respect, starring for the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins during his 21-year career.

“The game has changed so much. I think finances have changed the attitude of the players a great deal- the way that they conduct themselves, not only on the field but off the field,” says Dawson, who is now special assistant to the president of the Florida Marlins.

“Of course there is reason to take note and be concerned about it. Hopefully, this won't in the end destroy the game because we have enough problems as it is. The players who go around thinking they are bigger than the game itself need to change.”

Cubs fans, especially the ones in the right-field bleachers, used to bow to Dawson in respect when he took his position after hitting a home run.

“My six years with the Cubs (1987-92) pretty much got my career rejuvenated. As far as I am concerned, there is no better place to play,” says Dawson. “People always talk about New York, but I never had any aspirations to play there. But to come to Chicago...the warmth of the Friendly Confines and the knowledge of the fans...the thing that they do best is allow you to enjoy yourself and have fun. The pressure should be on the front office to get the right personnel on the field. As far as the fans are concerned, they are very accommodating and I just want them to get what they deserve.”

I have just one vote, but in my opinion, Dawson deserves the Hall of Fame.

“Your numbers don't change from year to year," says Dawson. "They always are going to be the same. You are either a Hall of Famer or you are not. Once you get in, you enjoy it all of your lifetime.”