Sore-kneed Dawson most proud of his Gold Glove defense

Dawson says people only see the glamorous side of baseball and he had a very painful career.
Dawson says people only see the glamorous side of baseball and he had a very painful career.

NEW YORK — The day after being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his ninth year of eligibility, Andre Dawson would have preferred not to talk about the 12 knee surgeries and the physical pain he endured during his 21-season career.

But when asked to elaborate at a news conference at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, he reluctantly painted the grim picture.

"A lot of people only see the glamour side of the game, but I had a very painful career," said Dawson, an eight-time All-Star outfielder who was selected on 420 of 539 ballots cast in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Wednesday. "I had to take medication almost daily to get through those three hours (on the field)."

Dawson said he injured his left knee playing high school football, and it left him with limited range of motion in his left leg. Eleven seasons of playing on artificial turf with the Expos only exacerbated the problem, as both knees wore down and required repeated surgery and rehabilitation.

Because of his knees, Dawson said, "I was usually the first one at the ballpark and the last one to leave. Before the game, I’d go through an ice treatment, some stretching, get both knees taped. After the game, it would be the same scenario."

Those knees prompted Dawson to become a free agent in 1987 and try to find a team that played on natural grass. He said his decision to sign with the Cubs gave him a new lease on life.

"Going to Wrigley Field, playing in the friendly confines amongst the Cub fans, that was amazing," said Dawson, who had his best season that year, winning the NL MVP Award — the first member of a last-place team to do so. "That really rejuvenated my career at a time when I was unsure about myself and whether I was going to be in the game. I owe that organization a lot for believing in me."

Dawson, who said he hasn’t decided whether his Hall of Fame bust will feature an Expos or Cubs cap, hit 438 homers in a career that spanned from 1976-96. Named the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1977 with Montreal, Dawson stayed with the Cubs through 1992, then spent two seasons apiece with Boston and Florida. He had a .279 career average with 1,591 RBIs and 314 steals. He is one of only three players with at least 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases, joining Barry Bonds and Willie Mays.

But Dawson said he is most proud of his eight Gold Gloves. "I tried not let one phase of the game overshadow the other," he said. "But I think I am more enthusiastic about the Gold Gloves because that says that defensively you were one of the standouts."

Dawson will join former manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey, Veterans Committee selections, in this year’s Hall of Fame class. The trio will be enshrined during a ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y, on July 25.

Dawson says people only see the glamorous side of baseball and he had a very painful career.
Dawson says people only see the glamorous side of baseball and he had a very painful career.

NEW YORK — The day after being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his ninth year of eligibility, Andre Dawson would have preferred not to talk about the 12 knee surgeries and the physical pain he endured during his 21-season career.

But when asked to elaborate at a news conference at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, he reluctantly painted the grim picture.

"A lot of people only see the glamour side of the game, but I had a very painful career," said Dawson, an eight-time All-Star outfielder who was selected on 420 of 539 ballots cast in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Wednesday. "I had to take medication almost daily to get through those three hours (on the field)."

Dawson said he injured his left knee playing high school football, and it left him with limited range of motion in his left leg. Eleven seasons of playing on artificial turf with the Expos only exacerbated the problem, as both knees wore down and required repeated surgery and rehabilitation.

Because of his knees, Dawson said, "I was usually the first one at the ballpark and the last one to leave. Before the game, I’d go through an ice treatment, some stretching, get both knees taped. After the game, it would be the same scenario."

Those knees prompted Dawson to become a free agent in 1987 and try to find a team that played on natural grass. He said his decision to sign with the Cubs gave him a new lease on life.

"Going to Wrigley Field, playing in the friendly confines amongst the Cub fans, that was amazing," said Dawson, who had his best season that year, winning the NL MVP Award — the first member of a last-place team to do so. "That really rejuvenated my career at a time when I was unsure about myself and whether I was going to be in the game. I owe that organization a lot for believing in me."

Dawson, who said he hasn’t decided whether his Hall of Fame bust will feature an Expos or Cubs cap, hit 438 homers in a career that spanned from 1976-96. Named the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1977 with Montreal, Dawson stayed with the Cubs through 1992, then spent two seasons apiece with Boston and Florida. He had a .279 career average with 1,591 RBIs and 314 steals. He is one of only three players with at least 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases, joining Barry Bonds and Willie Mays.

But Dawson said he is most proud of his eight Gold Gloves. "I tried not let one phase of the game overshadow the other," he said. "But I think I am more enthusiastic about the Gold Gloves because that says that defensively you were one of the standouts."

Dawson will join former manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey, Veterans Committee selections, in this year’s Hall of Fame class. The trio will be enshrined during a ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y, on July 25.

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