The slender slugger with the cannon arm was on the ballot for the seventh time. His previous high vote total was 61 percent in 2006.
Only closer Rich "Goose" Gossage was elected into the Hall of Fame on this year's ballot, receiving 85.8 percent (466 votes) by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Dawson, one of the top three returning vote-getters, did get a boost from the 56 percent (309 votes) he received a year ago.
A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain entrance into the Hall. This year, Jim Rice finished 16 votes shy of election with 392 votes (72.2 percent), and has one more year remaining on the ballot. Players remain on the ballot for up to 15 years provided they receive at least 5 percent of the vote.
Next year, Dawson and Rice will compete with first-time candidates David Cone, Rickey Henderson, Mark Grace and Mo Vaughn, among others.
The stoic Dawson, now a special assistant with the Florida Marlins, has talked to other Hall of Fame players, and all agreed that they had a unique feeling when they got the news.
"Gossage said he felt a rumble go through his body. I can believe that," Dawson told the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald. "Everyone's different, but I'm sure the euphoria is unbelievable. I don't know what that day would be like if it happened."
Dawson will have to wait. Tony Perez, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, had lobbied for Dawson.
"We all respect the way he played and the way he played even when he wasn't 100 percent," Perez said. "Talk to any player who saw him play or played with him or against him, and they don't understand why he isn't in the Hall of Fame."
Dawson isn't about to campaign for himself.
Dawson can be encouraged by the fact that he gained votes, and was 50 shy of being elected. In the history of the BBWAA ballot, every player who has reached the 70 percent plateau has eventually landed in the Hall of Fame.
"There's a lot of guys who had to wait a long time, guys who deserved it," Dawson said. "You just hate to see it because you want guys to be able to enjoy it for as long as they can and not lose all those years of their life waiting."
Gossage lobbied for both Rice and Dawson, who was the reliever's teammate in 1988 when both played for the Cubs.
"No hitter scared me, but Jim Rice came the closest," Gossage said. "Dawson should [be elected] because he also has great numbers."
In 21 big league seasons, beginning in 1976 with the Montreal Expos, Dawson batted .279 with 438 home runs, 1,591 RBIs and stole 314 bases. He won the National League Rookie of the Year in 1977 and the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1987, his first season with the Cubs, when he hit .287 and led the league with 49 home runs and 137 RBIs. He's the only eligible player with more than 1,000 career extra-base hits who is not in the Hall of Fame.
Former Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston, on the Hall ballot for the first time this year, received one vote. Of the 11 newcomers on this year's ballot, only outfielder Tim Raines received sufficient support of 5 percent (28 votes) or more to stay on the ballot. Raines received 132 votes, or 24.3 percent.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.