Hawk appreciative of Expos experience

Hawk appreciative of Expos experience

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The Hawk will soar into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday as the newest inductee among the players. Hawk -- the famous nickname was tagged on Andre Dawson by an uncle when he was nine years old.

"I used to work out with him on his seniors' team," Dawson recalled recently. "I was probably in their way, but because of family ties he allowed me to come out and run around the field. My uncle would hit me ground balls. I was all over the ball. Most kids would back up and be afraid of the ball. I would attack it. And that reminded him of a Hawk.

"It just stuck with me all these years. I'm not referred to as Andre anymore. I'm called Hawk or The Hawk."

The Hawk, this year's sole player elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, will be inducted in the hallowed Hall wearing the tri-colored logo of the Montreal Expos hat on Sunday. Whitey Herzog, a manager of four teams, and long-time National League umpire Doug Harvey are the other inductees. That duo was elected last year by separate Veterans Committees. Herzog will be portrayed on his plaque wearing his Cardinals cap.

Dawson played the first 11 of his 21 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. Overall, he had 438 homers and 1,591 RBIs for the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins.

"He's certainly a guy we competitively respected," said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, a member of the Tigers when Dawson played for the Expos. "He's very deserving. Those are the types of people anyone would endorse going into the Hall of Fame. He's a very professional guy, who did it right, played hard every game and certainly had his assets."

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 to go in as an Expo, joining catcher Gary Carter, who was elected by the BBWAA in 2003.

"I understand the position of the Hall," 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."

Carter, like Dawson, came up with the Expos and played his first 11 years of a 19-year career with Montreal.

Carter then moved to New York, where he played his next five years with the Mets, winning the World Series in 1986. In 2003, Carter made it no secret that he would rather have worn a Mets cap into the Hall. It didn't work out that way.

The Hall took over designation of teams for its inductees after there was controversy about Dave Winfield's decision to enter the Hall as a Padre rather than a Yankee in 2001.

Dawson said he'll acknowledge every team he played for when he makes his speech on Sunday, but he certainly will single out the Cubs.

"I plan to acknowledge the presence of the Cub fans," Dawson said. "They meant a lot to me and my family. I truly enjoyed playing there. I just want the Cubs fans to know what a huge impact they had on my career."

Olympic Stadium stands empty of baseball now, Major League Baseball having left Montreal after the 2004 season when the franchise was moved to Washington.

The team with Carter, Dawson, Tim Raines, Larry Parrish, Tim Wallach and Steve Rogers was the only one in team history to ascend to the playoffs. That happened during the strike-torn season of 1981. Those Expos went to the final out of the National League Championship Series, losing to the Dodgers, 2-1, in Game 5 by the slim margin of a Rick Monday home run in the top of the ninth off Rogers.

Dawson, who was plagued by a high school football knee injury his entire career, played in 103 games that season, hitting 24 homers and driving in 64 runs.

Dawson would leave as a free agent and join the Cubs during the first purge of talent from the Expos organization, which expanded into the National League in 1969 along with the San Diego Padres. But he has fond memories of playing in mostly French-speaking Quebec.

"They gave me my start," said Dawson, who was drafted by the Expos in the 11th round of the 1975 First-Year Player Draft. "It was an expansion franchise that had a lot of talent in its organization, me being one of them. I could go down the list. But we were always a trade or two away from getting to the next level.

"It was very tough to get the quality free agents to come across the border and play in Montreal. That was one of the key elements that didn't get us to a World Series or to the postseason on a regular basis. But it was fun. In the beginning the fans were learning about the game, but they came out when we were popular and successful."

Whether Dawson will be the last player to enter the Hall as a member of the Expos is an interesting proposition.

Like Dawson, Tim Raines played the first 11 years of a 23-year career in Montreal, but writers have yet to take his candidacy seriously. This year his name appeared on 164 ballots, for 30.4 percent of the vote. A player's name must make it on 75 percent of the ballots to be elected. Dawson was voted in on his ninth time on the ballot.

Vladimir Guerrero, who played his first eight seasons in Montreal and is currently with the Texas Rangers, will also get Hall consideration when he's eligible. Moises Alou played the first five of his 17 big league seasons with the Expos.

"I'm going to go on the record to say I won't be the last Expo to get in," Dawson said. "Tim Raines has a shot to get in. He played longer in Montreal than he did anywhere else in his career. If he does he's likely to get in as an Expo. Vladimir Guerrero. You never know what particular cap you're going to wear. If you had an impact with that organization, you have a good chance of getting in wearing the cap or uniform of that organization."

The Hawk definitely had an impact on the Expos and on Major League Baseball. For that, he'll be the 203rd player to glide into the Hall on Sunday.

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.