Terrific trio primed for Hall of Fame induction

Terrific trio primed for Hall of Fame induction

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y -- The weather was sunny and humid on Saturday, coming a day after heaving rains pelted this little hamlet on the banks of Otsego Lake. But the possibility of inclement weather is still threatening Sunday's annual induction ceremony behind the Clark Sports Center, just a few miles from the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Main Street.

The forecast calls for rain in the morning and possible thundershowers during the ceremonies, in which Andre Dawson, Whitey Herzog and Doug Harvey will be inducted. If it's impossible to stage the event outdoors, it will be moved to the Otesaga Hotel and attended by a select few. That hasn't happened since 1990. In any event, live coverage on MLB.com and MLB Network begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with the ceremony scheduled to start at 1:30.

"The Hawk" is this year's sole player elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America and will go into the hallowed Hall wearing the tri-colored logo of the Montreal Expos. Herzog was a manager of four teams, and Harvey was a long-time National League umpire. That duo was elected last year by separate Veterans Committees.

Dawson had his speech written months ago, but he wouldn't reveal on Saturday what he intends to say.

"You'll have to wait until tomorrow," he said at an inductee's media conference in the auditorium of a local high school. "Mine has been done for awhile. I tweaked it. I don't think I'd like to sit here and pick it apart."

Herzog will be wearing a Cardinals cap on his plaque, representing his 10 years managing in St. Louis.

"I'm going to wing a lot of it," Herzog said about his speech. "I have so many people to thank. I've been very emotional."

Harvey, who battled throat cancer and speaks with an extremely horse voice, said his acceptance speech will be pre-recorded because that's the only way now he can manage it.

"My throat is shot," Harvey said. "I did too much talkin' and too much hollerin' in my life I guess. I just wanted to let you know it's pre-recorded and that's how it's going to be."

Dawson, an outfielder with power who played most of his career on injured and fragile knees, made it on his ninth try, earning 77.9 percent of the vote that was revealed in January. His name was included on 420 of the 539 ballots. Last year, when Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice went in, he missed the cut with 67 percent of the vote. Seventy-five percent is required for election.

Players have 15 years of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot, which begins after a five-year waiting period upon retirement. It's the third time in the past five years that the BBWAA has elected only one player -- Bruce Sutter was chosen in 2006 and fellow reliever Rich "Goose" Gossage followed him in '08.

It's also the third time since Ryne Sandberg was elected in 2005 that an inductee has had ties with the Cubs. Sutter was the other, although the right-hander was inducted as a member of the Cardinals. Dawson played his first 11 seasons with the Expos, followed by six formidable years with the Cubs. He was the National League Most Valuable Player for Chicago in 1987, when he led the Senior Circuit with 49 homers and 137 RBIs. He also played for the Red Sox and Marlins.

Dawson wanted to have the Cubs insignia on his Hall of Fame plaque, but was overruled by the officials from the Hall, who made him the second player behind catcher Gary Carter to go in as an Expo after he was elected by the BBWAA in 2003.

"I respect the Hall's position," Dawson said. "The most important thing is that I'm in the Hall of Fame. The cap wasn't a huge issue. It was just a preference of mine. I'm not disappointed going in as an Expo. Not at all. When you talk about the history of the game that's very important.

"My preference was what I felt from a fan's perspective. What it meant to me and what it meant to be looked at in a different light. It was no big deal. Montreal gave me my start. The Expos gave me an opportunity. I felt the fans there were very supportive."

Dawson, who recently turned 56, might be surprised by the outpouring of affection from Expos fans, whether it's in front of what is expected to be a crowd in excess of 10,000 on the lawn behind the Sports Center or at the Otesaga. According to Hall officials, several bus loads of fans are making their way from Quebec, some six hours away. And a number of Montreal media were at the conference on Saturday, including Stephanie Myles, the last beat writer to cover the team for the Montreal Gazette before it left for Washington after the 2004 season.

Dawson, who was nicknamed "Hawk" as a 9-year-old, had 438 homers and 1,591 RBIs, but was never a member of a team that went to the World Series. He only played in the playoffs twice: for the Expos squad that lost the 1981 National League Championship Series to the Dodgers in five games, and the 1989 Cubs, who also lost the NLCS to the Giants in five games.

The Hawk was born and raised in Miami and finished his career with the Marlins in 1996, but he missed their first World Series championship by a year. Dawson is currently an executive assistant in the Florida organization.

Herzog, 78, is best known for his managerial stints with the Royals in the 1970s and the Cardinals in the '80s. His Royals lost to the Yankees three years running in the American League Championship Series (1976-78) and his Cardinals defeated the Brewers in a seven-game 1982 World Series, also winning NL pennants in '85 and '87.

He resigned for good midway through the 1990 season, saying that he could no longer manage the modern player. His overall managerial record was 1,281-1,125, a .532 winning percentage.

Herzog joins four other stellar managers from his era residing in the Hall: Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson, Tommy Lasorda and Dick Williams. Williams was the last inducted, in 2008. Weaver, Anderson and Lasorda are all in attendance this weekend.

"I just talked to Tommy today for about 45 minutes," Herzog said. "Sparky was the same way. He called to tell me how much your life changes when you become a member. Dick and I were teammates on three different clubs. We were always good friends. They were all great managers. You can't say enough for them.

"I look at being the 19th manager getting into the Hall of Fame and I'm very proud of that."

Harvey umpired 4,673 games in 18 years from 1962-92, including numerous playoff, World Series and All-Star games.

There will be 293 plaques in the Hall's gallery come Sunday -- only nine of them umpires. Harvey is the first umpire in 11 years to be inducted and the first living umpire in 21 years to make the leap into baseball's most cherished shrine.

Nestor Chylak, an American League umpire, was inducted posthumously in 1999, and Al Barlick, another NL arbiter, was inducted in '89. Barlick was the crew chief and home-plate umpire when Harvey worked his first game on April 10, 1962 -- the christening of Dodger Stadium. Harvey was at third base that day.

Harvey also worked with Jocko Conlan, another NL ump who was inducted in 1974, which means that one-third of the umpires in the Hall of Fame worked together on the field at one time or another. Five of the nine worked NL ballgames.

Harvey, 80, has battled through throat cancer and a recent stroke. There was a time after a seizure in January when his wife, Joy, didn't think he'd make it to Sunday's event, but he plans to be there.

"I'm feeling good," Harvey said. "I've had some tough illnesses. I never know from hour to hour how my voice will be. We haven't had much time to sit down and think about it, but when we have, my wife, Joy, and I feel like this is just beyond a dream."

For three men on Sunday, dreams become reality.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.