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Hall of a day for Dawson
Former Montreal Expos outfielder inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
By BOB ELLIOTT, TORONTO SUN

What did Andre Dawson think on his drive into St. Marys?

"It reminded me of driving into Cooperstown," Dawson said yesterday before being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

And Dawson hopes the road to the Cooperstown Hall leads through St. Marys, as it did for former Montreal Expos teammate Gary Carter.

Dawson was named on 50% of the ballots in January, his third of 10 years on the ballot, the same total as he had in 2003. Players need to be named on 75% to get in.

On the other hand, former Blue Jays slugger Joe Carter was inducted into St. Marys in 2003, but failed to get 5% of the votes to stay on the Cooperstown ballot.

St. Marys does not guarantee a spot in upstate New York.

Dawson's numbers say a lot: 21, 438, 314, 1,591 and 12.

In 21 seasons, he had 438 homers, stole 314 bases, drove in 1,591 runs and underwent 12 knee operations (seven on his right knee).

Imagine, as people often do with Bobby Orr, what would have happened had he been healthy?

An Expos doctor said that the first surgery -- the result of Dawson playing free safety and being accidentally bumped by one of his teammates -- was mishandled and led to more surgeries.

Dawson still lacks range of motion with his knee.

Now, a special consultant to Florida Marlins president David Samson, Dawson brought his own Hall of Fame entourage -- former teammate Tony Perez and Canadian Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Van Horne, along with his Hall of Fame family, wife Vanessa, and their children Darius, 16, and Amber, 13.

It took Perez nine years on the Cooperstown ballot before being elected.

"Tony and I talk each January (Hall of Fame time). He'll call from Puerto Rico and say how he hopes it happens," Dawson said. "I'm astute enough to know that you don't knock the system."

Dawson played 11 years with the Expos, the first six in centre field, the next five in right.

He won eight gold gloves, the National League most valuable player with the Chicago Cubs in 1987 and rookie of year honours with the Expos in 1977.

"I believe he belongs in Cooperstown," Steve Rogers, the former Expos ace, said. "He has 300-plus steals, 300-plus homers, you don't do that without leadership too."

With the Expos he constantly leapt over the Olympic Stadium wall or at other parks to bring back possible home runs. Rogers said jokingly: "I purposely hung four sliders per game, without my efforts he never would have made all those catches and won all those gold gloves."

When Dawson entered his Miami high school he had to fill out a form as to what he wanted to do when he grew up. He filled in "a baseball player." The teacher said, "No, really, what do you want to be?"

He'd sit in class in with his Los Angeles Dodgers pen doodling out possible Dodger lineups.

Undrafted in high school, the dream looked over. Yet, he made the Florida A&M Rattlers as a walk on and was drafted by the Expos in the 11th round, signing for a bonus of $2,000 US.

In all our years, the best two players we saw on a daily basis were Dawson and ex-Blue Jays second baseman Robbie Alomar.

---

HARDY ALWAYS HELD IN HIGH REGARD

WHEN WE first visited the Blue Jays office at Exhibition Stadium in 1987, we noticed a couple of things:

- President Paul Beeston, without socks, would have his feet up on his desk.

- General manager Pat Gillick, wearing cowboy kickers, would have his feet up on his desk.

Yet, this loose organization would move to sudden reverence when Peter Hardy's name was mentioned. It was always "Mr. Hardy."

"I could never call him Peter," Beeston said as the late ex-Jays CEO was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame last night. "He was our conscience."

WHAT CURSE?

The way Christopher Tunstall sees it, what has plagued the Boston Red Sox was not the curse of the Bambino, but it was the Lanin curse.

One-time Red Sox owner J.J. Lanin, born in Beauport, Que., never received proper credit for signing Babe Ruth or winning two World Series in the three years he owned the Sox, before selling in 1916.

"Now," said Tuntstall, of Asheville, N.C., "that my great grandfather has been recognized by being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, I think Boston will win a World Series."

GRANEY WINNER

Jacques Doucet has seen it all: The development of Gary Carter into a Hall of Famer; Rick Monday's ninth-inning homer to keep the Expos out of the 1981 World Series; Tim Raines, Larry Parrish, Larry Walker, Vladimir Guerrero and Andre Dawson, who was inducted at St. Marys.

For working more than 5,300 games over 35 1/2 years on French radio, Doucet was awarded the 2004 Jack Graney Award, presented to a media member that has made a significant contribution to baseball in Canada.

---

FAME CALL FOR MCKEAN

JIM MCKEAN was never shy.

With his athletic career winding down -- seven years with the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders -- McKean was watching television at his parents house in Montreal.

McKean saw an add for an umpiring school in Florida and headed down to Jarry Park in 1970.

He leaned over the railing as the umps came on to the field and said: "Excuse me, can you help? I'm interested in umpiring."

Ump Billy Williams turned around, spoke to McKean and arranged a post-game meeting.

McKean was off to Florida soon afterward and nicknamed "Canada," he was named the best pro prospect.

McKean's first major-league game was at Fenway Park in 1973 as a September callup when he worked second base. Three days later he had the plate in Chicago when White Sox knuckleballer Wilbur Wood faced Bill Singer of the Anaheim Angels.

"Fittingly, for a Canadian the game was snowed out in the 10th," McKean said.

McKean, inducted yesterday into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame at St. Marys, said his biggest thrill was working home plate in his hometown of Montreal at the 1982 all-star game.

Now, McKean is an supervisor of umpires, which includes the controversial QuesTec evaluation system, on each and every ball-strike call.

"I was still on the field when they brought it in," McKean said. "We thought we were all going to get fired. ESPN has the K-zone, FOX has something, there is constant scrutiny. Soon, local broadcasts will have something to second guess umpires.

"We're ahead of the curve with this technology. And they aren't going to fire anyone."

For almost 15 years, McKean had Marty Spingstead as his crew chief. Spingstead is a blustery New Yorker who speaks at 90 miles an hour ... except when it came time to introduce McKean as "a great man, a great umpire and a great friend." He was moved to tears speaking of his pal.

McKean's two sons, Jamie, 21, and Brett, 16, and wife Ann, were there yesterday, along with "all my softball guys, the Canadian snowbirds from all over who we play pick-up softball three times a week in St. Petersburg."

"I usually catch," McKean said. "I work closely with the plate ump."

---

EX-JAY OF THE WEEK

STEVE TRACHSEL, NEW YORK METS

HE MOVED as fast as an iceberg.

His first name was ball one or ball two.

We once asked why he was slow to the plate, the constant pick-offs, the stroll to the resin bag.

The answer from a scout was, "If you threw that poorly would you want to throw to a hitter?"

Well, that was in 2000, but this season right hander Steve Trachsel has seven wins for the New York Mets. Trachsel beat the Detroit Tigers 6-1 for his latest win. Sure, it was only the Tigers, but weren't they the same team that swept the Jays at the SkyDome to open the season?

He pitched six innings, allowing one run and lowering his earned run average to 3.44.

The Jays dealt infielder Brent Abernathy to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on July 31, 2000 for reliever Mark Guthrie and Trachsel. Trachsel was 2-5 in 11 starts for the Jays.