Andre Dawson

Andre Dawson:

Andre Dawson's day transpired much as it had the previous 8 years. He woke early in the morning, went to the gym, did some yardwork, ate some lunch, performed any of a number of menial tasks designed partly to keep his mind off the looming announcement of his Hall of Fame fate.

This year, though, the 55-year-old former outfielder sensed something different, and so he made a special trip to the cemetery where his grandmother, mother and uncle are buried.

"I just felt a little bit more optimistic about this year and I just wanted to share a few things at the gravesite," Dawson said yesterday from his home in South Florida. "It meant a lot to me to get out there and get that off my mind. It kind of alleviated a lot of nervousness I encountered."

His optimism was well-placed. Early yesterday afternoon, Dawson received the telephone call he had anticipated the majority of his adult life - the one that informed him he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dawson received 420 of 539 votes in voting announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, 15 more than the 75 percent necessary to gain election. The eight-time All-Star was the only player honored by the BBWAA, as pitcher Bert Blyleven and second baseman Roberto Alomar fell just short of induction. Blyleven tallied 400 votes, leaving him just an eighth of a percentage point shy, having been named on 74.2 percent of the ballots. Alomar, a 12-time All-Star at second base, led all first-time eligible players with 397 votes, but fell 1.3 percent shy of the 75 percent threshold.

"I feel disappointed, but next year hopefully I make it in," Alomar told the Associated Press at his home in New York. "At least I was close."

Other notable finishers included former Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin, who was named on 51.6 percent of the ballots in his first year as a candidate, followed by reliever Lee Smith (47.3 percent) and former Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez (36.2 percent).

Former A's and Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, who is eighth all-time with 583 home runs but has been dogged by steroid allegations since his appearance before Congress in 2005, received 10 more votes than last year, but was named on just 23.7 percent of the ballots.

Dawson will be inducted July 25 at Cooperstown, N.Y., along with manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey, elected last month by the Veterans Committee.

Nicknamed "The Hawk,'' he finished his 21-year career with 438 home runs. He was named NL Rookie of the Year in 1977 with Montreal and NL Most Valuable Player in 1987 with the Chicago Cubs. Dawson suffered from bad knees throughout his career. In fact, he revealed yesterday that his wife had to talk him out of retirement after he suffered a cracked knee cap early in his career. Dawson said his move from the artificial playing surface in Montreal, where he starred for 11 seasons, to the natural grass at Wrigley Field, where he played from 1987-92, rejuvenated him.

Still, it took him nine tries to finally be rewarded with a berth in the Hall of Fame. Dawson, who retired in 1996 with a career .279 batting average, .323 on-base percentage and .806 OPS with 1,591 RBI, fell 44 votes shy last year.

"The wait isn't a big factor at all in the scheme of things,'' Dawson said. "You get frustrated when people continue to say well, when do you think you are going to get in, and you don't really have an answer to that.

As I sit here, the only thing I can think of is it was well worth the wait. I really can't describe the elation me and my family experienced when I got that call. Regardless, I've just been patient over the years. One thing my mom always said, it's going to happen one day. It's inevitable. Just be ready when it happens.''

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