01/06/10 6:37 PM EST
Dawson's determination evident in election
Hall of Famer never gave up during career, nine-year wait
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
So much has been written and said about how the man called "Hawk" was able to deal with extreme knee problems.
A little known fact is when Dawson broke in with the Montreal Expos in 1976, one member of the Hall of Fame actually questioned the outfielder's arm.
Marlins radio play-by-play announcer Dave Van Horne, then a broadcaster in Montreal, recalls Dawson's career with the Expos. At the time, Van Horne was in the booth with Duke Snider, a Hall of Fame center fielder with the Dodgers.
"I remember when Hawk first came up, my partner on the air was Duke Snider," Van Horne said on Wednesday. "Duke said, 'I think Andre will wind up in left field, because he doesn't have the arm to be in center or right.'
"But Hawk worked so hard, developing a mediocre arm into a world class, All-Star arm. He, of course, became an All-Star at those positions, and he exceeded all expectations. That underscored his work ethic."
Dawson's work ethic was recognized on Wednesday. In his ninth year on the ballot, Dawson was elected into the Hall of Fame.
A Miami native, Dawson attended Miami Senior High and Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. Dawson, 55, is about to enter his 11th season as a special assistant in the Marlins' organization.
Universally respected for his class and character, Dawson on Wednesday experienced relief and exhilaration after enduring so much pain during his playing days.
"He was a blessed athlete," Van Horne said. "He had many wonderful attributes, physically and mentally, for the game of baseball. He had to work at it, and he did."
Accompanied by his wife, Vanessa, and daughter, Amber, Dawson addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon at Dolphin Stadium.
Playing on the artificial surface at Olympic Stadium in Montreal wore down Dawson's knees. The pain he went through was so severe that he considered retiring with fewer than five years of service time.
"He was saying, 'I think I'm going to walk away,'" Vanessa said. "I said, 'You worked too hard for this.' He said, 'You don't understand the pain.' He would be the first one to the ballpark every day.
"I was like, 'Give it another shot, dude. You've worked too hard. The odds were against you making it. Now, you've made it. Just don't throw in the towel.'"
Dawson eventually did walk away, but after 1996 when he closed out his career with the Marlins.
"He spent more hours in the training room, almost on a daily basis, to have those knees nursed through one season after another," Van Horne said. "I think that speaks to his courage, to his heart and to his great determination."
To this day, Dawson continues to push his body. In remarkable physical condition, he works out daily.
Not even the anticipation of a call from the Hall of Fame on Wednesday took him away from his routine. On Wednesday, he was awake at 6 a.m. ET, went to the gym, then spent a good part of his morning visiting the graves of his mother, Mattie Brown, grandmother, Eunice Taylor, and a lost uncle.
Dawson noted in his news conference that he didn't know if he would hold up all day. Of course, he did, fielding numerous questions.
The Hall of Fame informed Dawson that he was being inducted at 1:40 p.m. ET, just 20 minutes before publicly announcing the results on the MLB Network.
Dawson actually felt he wasn't getting in because the call came so close to the announcement. At 1:19 p.m., Dawson sent a text message to P.J. Loyello, the Marlins' senior vice president of communications and broadcasting. The text read, "I guess it's not going to happen."
The nine-year wait eventually did happen for Dawson, who gave his wife a thumbs-up sign while he was on the phone.
"I sit here today, because a lot of things were instilled in me early on," Dawson said two hours later. "To always give it your all, and don't really beat yourself up with whatever the outcome was. That was really my main goal, to enjoy the game, to play game as I did as a kid."
Dawson's mother passed away in 2006. Thursday would have been her 71st birthday.
"Before she passed, she said, 'Baby, [the Hall of Fame is] going to happen. Don't worry about it. Be patient,'" Dawson said. "'You did what you did for a long time. The Hall of Fame, they can't take it away from you. They can prolong your entry, but they can't take it away from you.'"
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.