Andre Dawson

Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins us to talk about his remarkable 21-year Major League career and his new book, If You Love This Game: An MVP'S Life In Baseball. Read an excerpt from the book below and visit the image gallery to see photos of the baseball legend's career with captions written by Andre Dawson himself.


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THERE CAME A DAY EVERY JANUARY THAT STARTED WITH ANTICIPATION and ended with disappointment, beginning with the year my name first appeared on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 2002. In my first year of eligibility, 45 percent of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America put a check next to my name, signifying their belief that I deserved a place in Cooperstown. That was a far cry from the 75 percent needed to get in. Still, it was an indication that I was a serious candidate. I hadn’t really expected to get enough votes that first year. In fact, I was fishing off Key Largo on the day of the announcement. In the years that followed, my hopes grew as I gradually climbed closer to the magic number of votes.

I felt like 2010 was a window of opportunity for me. All the former greats who had gotten more votes than me in previous years, guys like Jim Rice and my former Cubs teammate Rich “Goose” Gossage, had deservedly made it into the Hall. Rice earned his spot in his 15th and final year of eligibility. If you think of it as waiting in line for your turn, I guess you could say there was no one left standing in front of me.

Truthfully, the whole thing was starting to wear on me a little, probably because I had absolutely no control over it. When I hung up my cleats at the end of the 1996 season, I did so having accomplished just about everything I wanted to in the game. I say “just about,” because I never did get to play in a World Series in my 21-year career. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but think, “Did I really do enough to earn my place alongside the best players to ever play the game?” My advocates spoke of how I played through injuries and was among a select group of players with career totals that included 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases. My detractors pointed out that my batting average and on-base percentage didn’t stack up against a lot of the all-time greats. Amid all the talk, I vowed to remain proud of my accomplishments regardless of whether or not I entered the Hall of Fame. At the same time, I was hopeful good things would happen in my ninth year of eligibility in 2010.

When the day of the announcement rolled around, I woke up early, at 6:30 AM to be exact. I wanted to get in a workout, and then I planned to do something I knew would put the day in its proper perspective.Later that morning, I made the 15-minute drive from my Miami home to Dade South Memorial Park cemetery. I felt compelled to visit the gravesite of my mother and grandmother, without whose support I never would have realized my dreams of playing a single inning in the major leagues, let alone being enshrined in Cooperstown. My grandmother, Eunice Taylor, died in 1987 after a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease. Her passing came during a time of great transition for me. I dedicated the following season, my first in Chicago, to the woman I called “Mamma,” and it turned out to be the best of my career. My mom, Mattie, passed away in 2006. She was only 15 years old when I was born in 1954. As a single mother, she worked hard to support my siblings and me and was always a huge supporter of everything I did. Click image to view photo galleryI knelt and thanked these very special women for their unconditional love, for their efforts in raising me, and most importantly, for guiding me along the right path in life. Before I knew it, tears were streaming down my face.

When I got back home, my wife, Vanessa, was waiting on me. “Well, hopefully this is the day,” I said. Vanessa had stood by me not only on this day every year but on all other days since we married in 1978. And, believe me, that wasn’t always easy for her. Of the many things for which I’m grateful, the presence of strong women in my life is near the top of the list.

Vanessa and I ordered sandwiches from a favorite delicatessen called Roasters’ N Toasters and anxiously hung around the house as the morning turned to afternoon. The official Hall of Fame announcement in New York was at 2:00 pm, and I assumed I’d get a call ahead of time if there was good news to be shared. Though, to be honest, I didn’t know exactly how the process worked because my phone had never rung on that day before.

It got to be 1:00 PM and still there was no call—unless you count the one from a family friend who had the misfortune of phoning my wife during our state of high alert. “Can I call you back?” Vanessa nicely asked her. “We’re in the middle of something.”

It got to be 1:20—still nothing. “Well, I guess it’s not going to happen again this year,” I said with resignation in my voice. I was tired from my workout and had experienced a lot of emotion at the cemetery, so I decided to lie down and close my eyes. I asked Vanessa to come get me a few minutes before 2:00 PM, so I could turn on the television and see how the voting went.

A few minutes later, the phone rang.

I shot up into a sitting position. Before picking up the receiver, I glanced at the caller ID and saw it was a call from the New York City area code. A good sign to be sure. At that moment, Vanessa came through the door. Next thing I knew, the president of the Baseball Writers Association of America was congratulating me on my election to the Hall of Fame. I flashed my wife a thumbs-up. She put her hands on her face and started to cry. My daughter, Amber, heard what was going on, and she ran in the room. When she realized what was happening, she got choked up, too.It turned out I got close to 78 percent of the vote, just enough to make it to Cooperstown. I was going into the Hall along with manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey, both of whom were selected by the Veterans Committee.Click image to view photo galleryI hardly had time to process it all. Following the call, everything came at me quickly. There was a full schedule for the rest of the day and the next day. First I was supposed to go to Dolphin Stadium, soon to be renamed Sun Life Stadium, for a local press conference. Then I had to catch a flight to New York for a national press conference the next morning. Before we left the house, Commissioner Bud Selig called to offer his congratulations.

We had packed some bags in anticipation of this happy moment. The Florida Marlins, for whom I work as a special assistant, had also made preparations, sending a limo in case I got the call. But it turned out they were playing it safe. The driver had instructions to park down the street from my house. There was no use sitting right out front if the phone didn’t ring. We didn’t know about that limo, however, so my wife called another car service to come take us to the ballpark. It arrived a short time later and off we went to the stadium. On the way out of the neighborhood, we passed the “other” limo down the street. I should have put two and two together, but I didn’t. “Guess I’m not the only one celebrating something today,” I thought as we headed toward the freeway.

It seemed like I was on the phone for the entire 40-minute drive from my house to the ballpark. We decided that my wife and daughter would make the trip to New York with me. My son, Darius, had a college exam the following day, so he wasn’t able to go with us. That was hard on him, but we had always insisted he put his academics first. He realized the press conferences were just a prelude to the main event, the induction ceremony in July.

After meeting with reporters at the Marlins stadium, I did some interviews on the way to the airport. By the time I got there, I had about 50 voicemail messages and just as many text messages. One was from Al Oliver, a good friend and former teammate in Montreal. Al, who was a tremendous player in his own right, had been pulling hard for me to get in the Hall. In his message, he asked a rhetorical question: “Was it worth the wait?”

When we arrived in New York, I went down to the bar at the Waldorf Astoria and met with some Hall of Fame representatives to go over the details of the next day and proceeded to join them for dinner. As if the day hadn’t been eventful enough, I experienced an allergic reaction to something I ate! I didn’t let on that anything was wrong though. I had played through a lot of pain in my career, and I was going to make it through dinner no matter what shade of green I turned!

Back in my room later that night, the realization started to sink in. I was going to be a member of the Hall of Fame. Was I disappointed that I didn’t get in on the first ballot, or the eighth ballot, for that matter? Not at all. I embraced the idea that it’s the final destination that matters most, not how long it takes to get there. And finally, I had become a Hall of Famer.

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This excerpt from If You Love This Game: An MVP's Life in Baseball is printed with the permission of Triumph Books /

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