Dawson earned place in Hall the right way

Andre Dawson will take his place in baseball history Sunday, becoming the 203rd former major league player to be elected to sports’ most famous and important Hall of Fame.

In all, 292 ex-players, managers, umpires and executives have been immortalized in Cooperstown, N.Y. since the first class of five was elected in 1936 (Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth).

When Dawson joins this unique group, his entry will be symbolic in that he had to wait 10 years to get into the Hall because of the constraints of the "steroids era." Drug-induced home run hitters dominated the game for a 15-year period, skewing the numbers of real home run hitters like Dawson. Dawson hit 438 homers with 1,591 RBIs in a career that spanned from 1976-96.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts will represent the organization at the event and throw a party for the “Hawk” Saturday night following the downtown parade of Hall of Famers and a private Hall of Fame social at the museum.

Although the people who run the Hall of Fame did the right thing by having Dawson’s plaque embossed with him wearing a Montreal Expos cap, Dawson’s heart and soul will always remain at Clark and Addison, where he spent his happiest years in baseball.

The former superstar asked the Hall of Fame if he could have the Cubs’ cap and logo on his plaque. President Jeff Idelson, however, explained to Dawson that, historically, his best years and most of his career was spent in Montreal, where he played in relative anonymity for the first nine seasons of his career.

Dawson was the poster child for five-tool players. He could hit, hit with power, run, catch and throw as well as anyone from his era. Unfortunately for Dawson, though, playing those years on the rock-hard Olympic Stadium Astroturf destroyed his knees.

As a reporter, covering Dawson was a different process because he spent half of his pregame day getting treatment and icing his legs, just so he could play the game he loved for three hours a day.

The same process took place after the game, when you had to wait an hour to talk to the always affable, always honest man, who gave as much of himself in an interview as he did on the ball field.

Luckily for baseball and its fan base, the steroids era is in the rear-view mirror. The real heroes of the game, the guys who sacrificed good health for baseball immortality, now stand tall in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

None taller than Andre Dawson, an Expo on his Hall of Fame plaque, a Chicago Cub at heart.