Dawson has shot at Hall

Former Montreal Expos teammates and longtime friends Tony Perez (left) and Andre Dawson pose for a...

Former Montreal Expos teammates and longtime friends Tony Perez (left) and Andre Dawson pose for a photo at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary's, Ont., in June 2004. (London Free Press File/Ashley Fraser)

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

You saw Andre Dawson track down balls in the gap.

We saw him leg out triples as gracefully as Devon White.

Yet no one saw what Dawson went through on a day-to-day basis more than former Montreal Expos trainer Ron McClain.

"His right knee was damaged, but his left was worse, it was bone on bone," McClain said yesterday from Indianapolis.

"He's a Hall of Famer, but his numbers would have been so much better without the injuries. I never saw a player with a worse knee, yet he played through it."

Dawson is in his fifth year on the Hall of Fame ballot and needs a bump today as Baseball Writers' Association of America voting results are announced this afternoon. Voting members must have 10 years experience covering baseball. More than 500 ballots are expected.

Dawson received 52.3% of the vote a year ago. Will Dawson get enough votes to reach the required 75% of the votes cast? If Kirby Puckett can get elected after a 12-year career cut short by retina damage to his right eye, why can't Dawson?

Last month at a Baseball Ontario banquet, Fergie Jenkins was asked: "How many Chicago Cubs are in the Hall of Fame?"

Jenkins answered: "Ernie Banks, Cap Anson, Mordecai Brown, Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, King Kelly, Joe Tinker, Hack Wilson, Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, myself and hopefully Andre come January."

Dawson should get a bump from anyone who heard 2005 inductee Ryne Sandberg speak at Cooperstown lauding Dawson, the former MVP and eight-time Gold Glove outfielder.

With 438 home runs, 1,591 RBIs and 314 steals in his 21-year career, Dawson compares statistically to Dave Winfield, Tony Perez and Billy Williams, Hall of Famers one and all.

Dawson's knee injury was the result of a high school football injury. The doctor removed the whole cartilage rather than the damaged part. In 1972, that's the way the procedure was done.

"He became arthritic, grew calcium deposits on the bone, there wasn't a lot you could do," McClain said. "I don't see how anyone could have been better. He played through stops and starts stealing bases, playing on the Olympic Stadium turf. Most people don't get as far as he did because they can't play with the pain."

Dawson's typical day with the Expos included a whirlpool session and donning a knee brace for batting practice. Balm was applied to ease the pain. He would be re-taped for the game and wear a rubber knee sleeve for warmth.

Today's sluggers are accused of steroid use. Dawson's medication was pain-killers.

McClain noticed Dawson struggling during his first game on a road swing after a plane flight because his knees were swollen. By the third game he would be back to normal and after the game ... it was on to the next city.

"Dr. Larry Coughlan's father was a pilot, he told us planes are pressurized for 10,000 feet, but above that joints begin to swell," McClain said. Midway through 1980 the trainer asked him to wear to a compression sleeve and Dawson coped.

"He kept one in his suitcase and I kept one in mine in case he lost his," McClain said. "We used to have to drain his knee three times a year.

"We'd take 100 cc's of fluid out of his knee, we'd drain other guys and it was 30 ccs. Dawson could live with 30 or 40."

In addition to Dawson, we also voted for the following players (listed in alphabetical order):

- Albert Belle, who won't get much support, but who was more dangerous in his 12-year career, which was cut short by a degenerative hip.

- Bert Blyleven, who won 287 games and was fifth in career strikeouts with 3,701.

- Goose Gossage, as automatic as a microwave, saving 310 games. And like Bruce Sutter, Gossage was a three-inning reliever, pitching 141 2/3 innings in 1975.

- Jack Morris, who led the majors in wins (162) and complete games (332) during the 1980s. He was a top 10 in Cy Young award voting seven times.

- Lee Arthur Smith, the career save leader with 478, and 71 wins, which means he was on the mound for 549 wins, more than most Hall of Famers.

- Sutter, the leading man after attaining 66.7% of the vote of the required 75% a year ago. Sutter had 300 saves, won the Cy Young in 1979 and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting five times.

- Alan Trammell, a more complete shortstop than Ozzie Smith, we think.

Yet, we wouldn't be surprised to see the BBWAA voters pitch a shutout for the first time since 1996.


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