It's been a long, slow journey, but Andre Dawson is finally home in Cooperstown, right where he belongs.
In his ninth year of eligibility, Dawson finally broke through the 75% barrier in the annual vote of senior members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the only successful candidate on the 25-man ballot.
Dawson was named on 420 of 539 ballots cast.
"For a lot of reasons, I was a little more optimistic I would get the call this year," said Dawson, minutes after the results were announced. "Right now, I really can't explain the feeling. It's taken a while, but it's the greatest feeling I think a player can have."
Dawson played more than half his 21-year career with the Montreal Expos, for whom he earned his reputation as a player's player. He is one of just three players -- Willie Mays and Barry Bonds are the others -- to have more than 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases. And he did it on a set of cranky knees that were worn out long before their time.
Yet, the Hawk soldiered on, winning an MVP in 1987 when he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs.
"I didn't play the game envisioning I would be in the Hall of Fame," said Dawson. "But when you put in the years, and the numbers start to pile up, you start hearing yourself mentioned in the same breath with individuals who are in the Hall. Of course, you think about it.
"Toward the end of my career, I looked myself in the mirror and said: 'I gave it my all.' Whether that was going to be enough, I wasn't sure."
Like most observers, Dawson was surprised not to be joined by Robbie Alomar, who fell eight votes short of qualifying, third in the balloting. Bert Blyleven who, like Dawson, has spent many years inching his way toward induction, fell just five votes short in his 13th year of eligibility.
Dawson is uncertain which cap he will wear into the Hall. Obviously, his greatest body of work was in Montreal, but he did have six years in Chicago, including his MVP year.
"Right now, I'm thrilled at being inducted," he said. "That will be determined at a later date. I have my reservations about what cap I would want to wear. I'm going to sit down and talk with the Hall of Fame committee and hopefully we'll make the right decision."