MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Raines-Dawson bond now connects to HOF

Raines-Dawson bond now connects to HOF

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Andre Dawson and Tim Raines have been best friends since 1981, when they were playing with the Expos.

The two will have more in common today, when Raines will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, joining Dawson, who was enshrined in 2010.

Dawson told Raines to have a speech prepared. But Raines wanted to speak from the heart. Dawson warned his best friend that he doesn't want to mess up on one of the biggest days of his life. A mutual friend told Dawson recently that Raines is finally preparing a speech.

"It's going to be different once you step up to that podium, and see your people out there. Your emotions are going to change," Dawson said. "[I told him], 'You only do this once in your lifetime. It's your stage. It's your 20 minutes, and you want to make the most of it. Make it the best 20 minutes of your life. I hope he is funny. I hope he doesn't get emotional. If he gets emotional, it might hit me somewhere I least expect it."

MLB Network's exclusive live coverage of the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony -- simulcast live on MLB.com -- begins with MLB Tonight today at noon ET, followed by the ceremony at 1:30 p.m. MLB Network will also televise the 2017 Hall of Fame Awards Presentation today at 11 a.m. ET in advance of the induction.

Raines said he would not be a Hall of Famer without Dawson, whom Raines called his big brother and a father figure. The two played together in Montreal for eight seasons.

Raines named his second son after Dawson, who was also asked to be the godfather. And how wild is this? Dawson and Andre Raines share the same birthday -- July 10.

Dawson on Raines' HOF induction

"He had a number of friends from his neighborhood and teammates he knew from the game, but for whatever reason, he approached me about being the godfather," Dawson said. "You don't say no to that."

Early in Raines' career, it looked like it would go downhill before it started. He started having a substance abuse problem after his first full year in the big leagues in 1981. Dawson, one of the game's best players at the time, noticed something was wrong when Raines said to Dawson, "I want to be like you." It took Dawson by surprise. He was wondering what Raines was trying to tell him.

After figuring out what the problem was, Dawson told Raines that he had to learn from his mistakes and move forward. Dawson said Raines was man enough to confront his problems and seek help. From that point on, Dawson looked after Raines and formed a friendship.

"The impact that he had on me was tremendous," Raines said. "He was a silent leader. He led by example. He is one of the few guys I know that is in the Hall of Fame. … He was a big influence. I owe a lot to him for being a friend, teammate and a positive influence on the way I played the game."

The friendship between Raines and Dawson wasn't one sided. According to Dawson, Raines made him a better person in the clubhouse, and on the field. Dawson was known as a person who kept to himself and took the game seriously. Most of his teammates didn't want to approach him for that reason. But Raines, the comedian on the team, always took a jab at Dawson, who couldn't help but laugh.

"He wouldn't let you get down or distracted," Dawson said. "For me, it was like the perfect storm, because it allowed me to not be so serious at the ballpark. He had his way of approaching me and get things out of me. He allowed me to relax at the ballpark."

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.