2010 HEADLINE: Andre Dawson Enshrined At Cooperestown
On this day in 2010, Andre Dawson was enshrined into the Baseball Hall Of Fame.
Unquestionably my favorite baseball player of all-time, I have so many fond memories of watching Andre Dawson perform in his Expos, Marlins, Red Sox, and Marlins uniforms. But it was his performance on July 25, 2010 in front of the library at Cooperstown that will remain engrained with me forever.
Executing a perfect speech while looking like a presidential candidate, Andre Dawson captivated me once again; more than 25 years after he first made an impression on me.
Congratulations and Happy Anniversary ‘Hawk’. One of the greatest sports moments of my life – provided courtesy of my favorite player!!!
Here is Andre’s speech from that fantastic day:
“Thank you, Commissioner Selig.
Congratulations to my fellow inductees, Jon Miller, Bill Madden, Doug Harvey and Whitey Herzog.
It’s an honor to be here with you both, though I’m surprised that they let this manager and this umpire sit so close together today.
It is both humbling and overwhelming to see the men sitting up here on this stage, to hear their names called before mine.
Thank you, gentlemen, for welcoming this rookie to your team.
All I ever wanted growing up was to be like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and now I get to shake their hands and be treated as a friend. It’s an honor beyond words.
We’ve got a lot of Cubs in this group. Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins. These guys had to go through a lot to fight their way here, more than you will probably ever know. I admire you all a lot and I thank you for paving the way.
Ryne Sandberg, who was a teammate of mine for six years and I didn’t even know the man could speak until I saw him up here five years ago. My kind of player, never whined, never complained. Showed up every day, left it all on the field.
Speaking of the Cubs, thank you, Cub fans, for coming all the way out here. No fighting with the Cardinal fans now, but just make sure we all hear from the Cardinals fans the rest of the day.
I see Tom Seaver sitting back here. So, I saw him this morning at breakfast, too, and he wanted me to feel comfortable, so threw a breakfast roll past my head.
Bruce Sutter, I really hated that splitter, man. Still haven’t fixed my swing from having to face you.
Tommy Lasorda, he taught me how to get a free meal. He said eat half your steak and send it back and complain and get a whole new free one. You’ve got to love Tommy.
Rickey Henderson mentioned last year that when he was young he waited in a parking lot outside the Oakland Coliseum so that he could ask Reggie Jackson for an autograph. If I recollect, he said Reggie gave him an ink pad with his name on it.
In 1977 I met Reggie at a card show. I was very nervous, but I had just been named Rookie of the Year. So, I liked my chances of getting a signed picture. I asked Reggie for an autograph. Rickey, all he gave me was a candy bar with his name on it.
What a great day this is. I’m very grateful to the Baseball Writers Association of America for this tremendous honor and I thank you for the respect with which you always treated me and I hope you feel like I did the same to you.
I didn’t play this game with this goal in my mind, but I’m living proof that if you love this game, the game will love you back.
And I am proof that any young person who can hear my voice right now can be standing here, as I am. Like most of us up here, by the age of eight, I was using a busted broom handle for a bat and using rocks as a ball and by then I knew I was born to play this game. I dabbled in other sports, sure — my knees are proof of that — but baseball was my love. And baseball is where I belonged. And I found out quickly that if you love this game, the game will love you back.
It’s still a great game, too. It bothers me when I hear people knock the game. There’s nothing wrong with the game of baseball. Baseball will from time to time, and like anything else in life, fall victim to the mistakes that people make. It’s not pleasant and it’s not right. Those mistakes have hurt the game and taken a toll on all of us. Individuals have chosen the wrong road and have chosen that as their legacy. Others still have a chance to choose theirs. Do not be lured to the dark side. It’s a stain on the game, a stain gradually being removed.
But that’s the people, not the game. There’s nothing wrong with the game. Never has been. I think people just forget why we ever got involved in the game in the first place. When we were nine and ten years old, we just loved playing the game. What we found was that if you put your heart into this game, if you love this game, the game will love you back.
That’s why I made it here and anyone who can hear my voice right now can be standing here, as I am.
Look at me and these incredible men who make up the Hall of Fame. They are proof of that. There are many of us up here who had nothing, who came from nothing, who wondered if nothing was all there ever was. But look at us. There is hope. But you can’t get here by skipping school or disrespecting your parents or your teachers or your coaches.
And you can’t get here by dropping out of society. You can’t get here if you believe you have nothing to lose out on the streets. You have everything to lose. But in this game you have everything to gain. A lot of kids feel abandoned, and I understand that. Some of us know what that feels like. It’s a tough road and it’s unfair. But feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to save you. Baseball can. Baseball can be your salvation. I am proof of that. And if you can hear my voice today, you can stand here, just as I am today.
As my grandmother used to say, “Take God with you. Get on your knees and believe it. Be thankful of the blessings before you receive them. If you can get left behind or you can get on board.”
Love this game and the game will love you back.
You don’t get to stand up here without the support of so many friends, family members, teammates, coaches and Managers. So, today, I want to start by thanking Paul Como, my coach at Southwest Miami Senior High School, who moved me from the infield to the outfield, and Coach Costa Kittles, who gave me a chance at Florida A & M University as a walk-on when no other college would look at me because of a knee injury.
Legendary field coordinator, Mel Debian, who didn’t let a knee brace scare him off and got me invited to a tryout camp. My college roommate, Paul Watson and my outfield partners in Montreal, Warren Cromartie and Ellis Valentine.
Another Montreal teammate, Gary Carter, who was arguably the best young catcher in the game, went by the name the Kid. But Warren Cromartie tagged him with the nickname Teeths, T-e-e-t-h-s, Teeths, because when the cameras came on, that’s all you saw from him. Amen.
We were fortunate that as young players we were able to look up to people like Vern Rapp, Jim Fanning, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, the consummate pro, and Hall of Famers Tony Perez and Dick Williams.
I really enjoyed my time around Pete Rose and I was the first guy to the park, and Pete was second. The only problem then is you had to listen to him talk for three hours before anyone else showed up.
In Chicago, I had a coach named Jose’ Martinez. If I wasn’t looking for him, he was looking for me. We put in a lot of time together in that outfield at Wrigley Field. Baking in that hot sun, and we weren’t just working on our tans.
We had a great manager in Don Zimmer. Zim treated me with great respect. And he’s a man who really loved the game. But you didn’t want to be around him when we gave away a game. I only thought I knew every curse word, but Zim, Zim made up some new ones. Don Zimmer, that’s a man who has given his whole life to the game of baseball.
Our closer was Lee Smith. He used to take batting practice with my game bats. He would pick out my pearls, as I called them, I would say Smitty, there’s a 15-game hitting streak in that bat. You can’t use my gamers in BP. He would just keep on walking. He said, yeah, that’s a nice one, Hawk, but I only swing with pearls. If you ask me, Smitty, Smitty ought to be sitting up here in one of these chairs.
Tim Raines should be up here, too. Raines was like a brother to me.
Shawon Dunston was like a little brother to me. He liked to say that I was old enough to be his dad. Funniest man I ever met, Shawon Dunston. Unfortunately, this is a family show and I can’t tell you a single Shawon Dunston story right now.
Goose Gossage was also a teammate in Chicago, one of my all-time favorites. The only player I know who drink a case of beer on a flight from Chicago to St. Louis and still be lights out the next day.
Thank you to all the doctors and trainers who managed to keep me in one piece. Well, maybe a few pieces. Okay, a lot of pieces. But they kept me on the field, they kept me playing. This is a very, very long list, but I’ll try to keep it to under 50 people.
From Montreal, trainer Ron McLean and Dr. Larry Cardinal. In Chicago, John Fiero and Dr. Michael Shaffer. Florida Marlins team doctor John Uribe and trainer Larry Stark. And the man who did my knee replacements, Dr. Vincent Burke. Physical therapist, Lisa Kurrens (phonetic), Ed Garabety (phonetic). Husband and wife team, Ryan and Marti Vermelia. Thank you all for keeping me upright and I know you all spent more time with me than your own families some of those years. Thank you.
Thank you to my cousin and off-season workout partner, Donald Napier. And to brothers Glen and Chip Sesselmann, for the use of their hitting facilities.
From the Hall of Fame, thanks to Jane Forbes Clark, Jeff Idelson and the Hall of Fame Committee for your hospitality, for your respect and for this wonderful weekend.
Thank you to the Montreal Expos organization for drafting me and giving me my start. You gave me my first ten years in the Major Leagues, the experience of a new culture, and playing across the border.
Thank you, Expos fans, for your kindness and your admiration.
Thank you to the Red Sox for simply wanting me.
And thank you to the Florida Marlins, people like David Dombrowski, David Samson and Jeffrey Loria, for giving me the chance to experience both playing and working at home.
I want to send a special thank you to Marvin Miller for being a pioneer to the players. And I want to thank my good friend and agent, Dick Moss, who had the idea to show up in Arizona, in Spring Training, in 1987 with no job, no contract and no uniform. The Cubs gave me a job, and for that I’m also thankful.
And from my heart, from my heart, thank you, Cub fans.
You were a true blessing in my life. I never knew what it felt like to be loved by a city until I arrived in Chicago. And though it wasn’t my way to show it, I can’t express to you enough how I appreciate what you did. You gave me new life in baseball when I arrived in Chicago and you are the reason I continued playing the game. I can’t thank you enough for how good you were to my family and me. You were the wind beneath the Hawk’s wings.
In 1987, I thought about giving up the game or maybe going to Japan. But I knew there had to be a place where the game could be fun again. I found that place. It’s called Wrigley Field. It reminded me that if you love this game, the game will love you back.
I wouldn’t be here without the love and support of my seven brothers and sisters. And a special thanks to my Uncle Curtis Taylor, who introduced me to the game of baseball and bought me my first glove.
And my Uncle John Taylor, one of my biggest supporters, who helped me to see it through when I was so homesick at Florida A & M.
My kids, Darius and Amber. Thanks for demonstrating the characters and mannerisms that every parent would want to see in their kids.
In the eyes of the world, you may only be two people. But in the eyes of two people, you are the world.
To my wife, Vanessa, who would get out of bed at 11:00 at night and get me ice bags and pain medication and more ice bags and anti-inflammatories and yet more ice bags because at times it was difficult for me to put two feet on the floor and do it, myself. Thank you.
And she put up with a lot in 20 years of baseball, wondering if I was ever going to take off that uniform. She put up with all the surgeries and all the rehabs, the crutches the bandages, the many hours a day of working out, having to watch me in pain through much of it. Could not have been easy and it took as much effort on her part as it did mine to get through those years.
Thank you, Sweety. I love you.
And you don’t arrive on this earth magically. There are some people to whom I owe a lot that are not here anymore. My Uncle Theodore Roosevelt Taylor, who played Minor League baseball and taught me so much. And my Uncle Matthew Napier, who coined the nickname “The Hawk” when I was a kid. My mother-in-law Lucille Turner, who just recently passed. She was a huge baseball fan and a big supporter of mine.
My grandmother, Eunice Taylor. I called her Mama. She helped raise me. She taught me to believe in myself and to believe in God. And without her, I never would have made it through high school, let alone college or the pros. She taught me that if you want respect, you have to give it first. She was an advocate of education. She always reminded people that baseball was recreation. She said education was a stepping stone to my future. Without it you’re not going to get very far. School first and if you have the talent to play baseball, someone will take notice.
My mom, Amanda Brown, died four years ago. And I miss her today as much as I did then. She was my mom. She was my dad. She was my big sister. My big brother. My best friend. She was my whole world for a very long time in my life. And I only wish she were here to see this. Before she passed, she dreamt of this moment, she dreamt of this day. She promised me it would happen. And my mother never, never broke a promise to us.
She said it’s inevitable, what God has planned, no man can change. More than anyone else or anything else, this is for my mom, who did the impossible every day, to raise a family and she taught her kids right from wrong. She kept it together and somehow got by. My grandmother and my mom were my true heroes. They gave me life, they gave me my daily bred and they gave me hope. They showed me the way to get through the day and to overcome obstacles hundreds of years old. They showed me how to live. They showed me the way out. They showed me the way here. They taught me to love and to hope and to believe in help from above.
So, I think of them day and all they sacrificed for me. I will not forget their struggle, not on this the greatest of days.
I’m not ashamed to say my mom was everything to me. And while she’s not here, she is still with me. I hope she looks down and she is proud of me. I love you, Mom.
Thank you, again, for this tremendous honor. I will never forget this day and I will never forget those who helped make it possible. I will never forget that it was my love for the game that propelled me and kept it going when times got tough.
I will never forget that if you love this game, it will love you back.