Friday, January 8, 2010

Dawson and the Hall

We have institutions called Halls of Fame (HoF) because we like to canonize those that make something great. The greatest a sport has to offer are in the Hall and those who changed the game for the better. Jackie Robinson was a very good ballplayer, but his greatest was what he did for the sport. Recently some of my favorite baseball players from my youth have been accepted into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Jim Rice was inducted last year and Andre Dawson was voted in this week. I have no doubt that either of these players were great in their time. The question that all baseball fans have about Rice and Dawson is ... are they really great enough to be put into the same league as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams. This is not an easy question.

For an HoF to maintain its integrity they must make sure that only the best of the best are inducted. This year votes went to such players as David Segui (1), Ellis Burks (2) and Erik Karros (2). These are decent player, but no where close to the hallowed hall. I don't know who voted for them but I can't imagine what a joke the Hall would be if these players had gotten in. 405 votes are needed to get in.

Dawson received 420 this year, his eighth year of being eligible. If I were to judge his career by his stats alone, I might not vote for Dawson (if I had a vote). He was MVP once, never went to a World Series and his career On-Base Percentage is .323. This is impressive, but no Babe Ruth. But he did hit over 400 home runs in his career and has 8 Gold Gloves which is amazing. The only time I got to see him play in person when he played for my Red Sox. He was in his latter years and didn't play the field much. The American League is kind to old players. I heard he was amazing. I have to wonder how good he would have been if he didn't play his early years in one of baseball's worst parks (the Big O in Montreal). AstroTurf and empty seats don't usually produce excellence.

I would be prone to vote yes on his induction mostly due to his character. Dawson and Rice played pro-ball in an era when racist still lingered. They are two of the classiest men to ever play the game. I had the pleasure to meet Dawson once. I lived in Boston when he played for the Sox. I was with my little brother Angel (from the Big Brothers of Boston). We were peaking through the fence in back of Fenway Park after a game. Angel yelled to Dawson, "Hey Hawk! Can I have an autograph?" We didn't have a pen and neither did he. He was kind enough to stop and talk to the kid. In a time when scumbags like Mark Macguire and Michael Vick distort our vision of what an athlete should be, I think being a classy guy in an era when class is rare is enough to push Dawson over into the Yes column.

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