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05/04/10 7:17 PM ET
Hawk does fly-by of Hall of Fame
Dawson takes tour of Museum in preparation for his big day
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- It is about three months before induction day 2010 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Andre Dawson said on Tuesday that he already has mapped out the speech he will deliver that day. "I'm pretty much done with it," Dawson said after taking a 90-minute tour of the Museum with his wife Vanessa in preparation for that big day. "I'm just tweaking it a little bit here and there." Most inductees take every last minute to write their speeches. And some, like Tony Gwynn, never author one. Gwynn ad-libbed off a set of notes when he and Cal Ripken Jr. were enshrined in 2007. Dawson will be inducted behind the Clark Sports Center on July 25 along with manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey. "I'm going to keep it simple at the request of the Hall and all of the Hall of Fame members," Dawson said. "Yogi [Berra] has already said that if it's 20 minutes he's going to get up and leave." Dawson added that he won't talk about what he accomplished during his 21-year career for four teams -- the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins. He wants to address young people and the status of the game. Of course he has a short list of people he intends to thank. But most of all, he'll dedicate his induction to his grandmother, Eunice Taylor, and his mother, Mattie Brown. Both have passed and were a major influence on Dawson's life. Dawson will also thank the fans of Chicago, even though by edict of the Hall he'll be the second player -- following Gary Carter -- to enter wearing a Montreal Expos cap. Dawson had 14 procedures on his left knee, including two replacement surgeries. Some of his most physically challenging years were his six with the Cubs, including 1987, when Dawson was named the National League's Most Valuable Player. "I felt a sense of gratitude to the fans of Chicago for the overwhelming enthusiasm they brought to the second half of my career," Dawson said. "Sure, I was a pretty decent player at the outset for 10 years in Montreal. But it was later when I was tested most, health-wise. Just the fact that I could go out there every day and I knew that those people had my back lessened those injuries. I thought I could strap it up there and give it my best effort." Dawson was the only player elected on Jan. 6 to the Hall. That accolade came during his ninth year on the ballot, as he earned 77.9 percent of the votes cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Since 1994, it has become a tradition for the inductees to individually tour the Hall to be given a sense of the historic fabric they will soon be woven in. Herzog, who managed the Texas Rangers, California Angels, Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals, took his tour on April 26. Harvey, the long-time National League umpire, is due in on Friday. Dawson toured the exhibits. At one that includes a ball from every no-hitter thrown since 1940, Dawson remembered catching the last out of a no-no thrown by the Expos right-hander Charlie Lea in the second game of a doubleheader at Montreal's Olympic Stadium against the Giants on May 10, 1981. "As I jumped up and lifted my arms in the air I almost dropped the ball," Dawson recalled. In the basement's climate-controlled archives, he was given a chance to once again swing a pair of his own bats: one he used in 1985 to hit two homers in the same inning for the Expos, and the other to club his 400th career homer in 1993 for the Red Sox. He was shown his game-worn Cubs and Expos caps, and an ancient No. 10 home Expos jersey. "Oh, I couldn't fit into that," he said about the jersey. Dawson also was able to play with bats used by Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. "I could probably have swung this," Dawson said upon holding a 35-ouncer that Ruth used to hit 28 homers before it cracked. Given a much lighter bat once wielded by former Expos teammate Tim Raines, Dawson quipped: "I could have swung this with one hand." These tours always conclude where the Hall of Fame begins and ends: the plaque room. "The spiritual home of the Museum," said Erik Strohl, the senior director of exhibition and collections, who conducted the tour with eight reporters and a number of video and still cameramen in tow. Come July, there will be 292 plaques hanging in the gallery, 203 of them representing players, including Dawson. Strohl guided Dawson to two of them, in particular: Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, and Willie Mays, the only other player in the Hall aside from Dawson to amass more than 400 homers and 300 stolen bases. Dawson, who accumulated 438 homers and 314 stolen bases, had an obvious look of reverence on his face. "Willie was one of my favorites. He made the game look easy," Dawson said as he perused the plaques. "Ernie was also terrific. He called me right after the announcement and wished me luck. 'I'm glad you made it in,' he said. 'Welcome.'" Dawson's plaque will hang at the front of the room next to the class of 2008. As fortune would have it, his plaque will be just above and to the right of Dick Williams, his manager for nearly six years, beginning in 1977, Dawson's first full season with the Expos. "He was proven," Dawson said of Williams, who had already won a pennant with the Red Sox and two World Series managing the Oakland A's. "You knew he was a leader who could get the most out of you. He said to go out there and not put too much pressure on yourself." Asked to describe what struck him most on his solitary spring day touring the red-brick Museum on a quiet Main Street, Dawson said: "A lot of things stood out. It all goes back to seeing all of the artifacts, hearing all the stories, seeing all the actual game-used equipment these players went out on the field and used, and then walking through this gallery seeing all the plaques. That in itself just says it all."