NEW YORK -- On the sixth day of the new decade, "The Hawk" took flight.
After waiting eight long years to make it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Andre Dawson is this year's sole electee, it was announced on Wednesday. Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, who came oh so close, will have to wait another year.
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 votes cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, with his name included on 420 of the 539 ballots. Last year, he missed the cut with 67 percent of the vote.
"If you're a Hall of Famer you're eventually going to get in," said Dawson, whose first 16 of 21 seasons were played with the old Montreal Expos and the Cubs. "It was well worth the wait. I can't really describe the elation when my family and I got the call."
Dawson will be inducted on July 25 in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey, who were elected in December by the Veterans Committee.
Forging the tightest vote in Hall of Fame history, Blyleven finished just five short with 74.2 percent, and Alomar, considered one of the top second basemen of his era, registered the most votes ever for a first-year candidate without getting elected. He had 73.7 percent and his 397 votes were eight shy of the necessary 75 percent level.
"As I sit here, it's awful to think about five votes," Dawson said about Blyleven, the right-handed pitcher whose career overlapped with "The Hawk." "I feel for him that he has to wait another year. Five votes are very hard to swallow."
Blyleven was shut out in his 13th opportunity on the ballot. Alomar, a second baseman, was among 13 players on the ballot for the first time. Barry Larkin, the former Reds shortstop, had the next-highest percentage among first-timers with 51.6 percent. Edgar Martinez, the Mariners designated hitter, finished at 36.2 percentand Fred McGriff, a slugging first baseman who finished with 493 homers, had 21.5 percent. They are the only four first-timers who will be back on the ballot next year.
Since no candidate measuring above the 70 percent mark has missed election, Alomar and Blyleven seem certain to make it in 2011.
Players have 15 years of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot, after a five-year waiting period upon retirement. It's the third time in the past five years that the BBWAA has elected just one player -- Bruce Sutter was chosen in 2006, and his 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.
Dawson said he had an emotionally wrenching day, first visiting the graves of his grandmother, mother and uncle before waiting around the house in Miami for the call from the Hall.
"Well, I shed some tears today. I was nervous today and I was happy before the announcement," he said. "I was optimistic. For some reason I slept better last night than I have in the last eight years. I probably won't feel the magnitude of it for a couple of days. I'm still kind of light in the stomach. My daughter and my wife showed a lot of emotion when I got the phone call. Of course, I tried to keep myself contained."
Dawson had 438 homers and 1,591 RBIs for four teams. He played his first 11 seasons with the Expos on the harsh artificial turf of Olympic Stadium and his next six with the Cubs in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, but never was a member of a team that went to the World Series.
Dawson could very well be the second player in history to don an Expos cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Catcher Gary Carter was the first when he was elected in 2003. Carter, like Dawson, played his first 11 years of a 19-year career in Montreal. Carter then moved to New York, where he played his next five years with the Mets.
The cap decision will be made in the days ahead by officials of the Hall of Fame in concert with Dawson, said Brad Horn, a spokesman for the museum. The Hall took that decision in-house after the 2001 elections.
"Right now I'm just content to take this all in," Dawson said, "and worry about that later."
Dawson finished his career in Florida with the Marlins in 1996, missing their first World Series championship by a year. He later became an executive in that organization.
Dawson, who was born and raised in Miami, was praised by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
"On behalf of the entire Florida Marlins organization, I would like to congratulate Andre on his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame," Loria said in a statement. "His many years of hard work and dedication have earned him his rightful place in Cooperstown.
"Andre's stats over the years tell only part of his story. He was a great teammate and played the game hard, including playing through many difficult knee injuries. His many accomplishments on the field during his long, successful career now place him among the elite of our national pastime.
"Since 2000, Andre has been a valuable member of our front office, lending his expertise, knowledge and insight to our Major and Minor League players and staff. We greatly value his friendship and loyalty."
Alomar was a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove second baseman, who batted .300 with 2,724 hits during a 17-year career for seven teams. He came up in San Diego with the Padres in 1988 and played three seasons there before being traded to the Blue Jays, where he played another five, winning the World Series in 1992 and '93.
Roberto is the son of former big league infielder and coach Sandy Alomar Sr. His brother, Sandy Alomar Jr., is a six-time All-Star catcher, who returned to the Indians during the offseason as a coach.
"I do feel that Roberto Alomar is a Hall of Famer," Dawson said. "What remained to be seen was whether the writers would put him in on his first ballot. He's one of the greatest second baseman I ever saw play the game."
Blyleven also missed the cut last year with 62.7 percent of the vote. He won 287 games and recorded 3,701 strikeouts (fifth highest all-time) for five big league teams in 22 seasons. He had two stints with the Twins, coming up in that organization, where he played his first six seasons. Blyleven later returned for a little longer than three more. During that second stint, he was a member of Minnesota's 1987 World Series-winning team.
"I hit against him, and if there was a finer pitcher than he was then I don't know who it was," Hank Aaron said about Blyleven on Wednesday on Sirius Radio. "I only went to bat maybe 10 or 15 times [against him]. I don't think I ever got a hit off him. But he was quite a pitcher. I know that he didn't win 20 games [every year] but sometimes you don't need to win 20.
"I think it's just a matter of how you carried yourself and what you did for your other teammates. Just to have him in that rotation for that many years with Minnesota, [he] was somebody that you didn't look forward to hitting against."
Larkin fell far short of the mark. Like Alomar, he also was a 12-time All-Star, who played on the Reds' 1990 World Series-winning team. He batted .295 and had 2,340 hits. Comparatively on offense, Ozzie Smith, the last pure shortstop elected (on the first ballot in 2002), batted .267 with 2,460 hits in 19 seasons for the Padres and Cardinals. Smith got in so quickly because of his defensive ability.
Cal Ripken Jr. was also an All-Star shortstop, but finished his career at third base.
A player has to garner at least 5 percent of the vote to be carried over from year to year. He has 15 years of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot, beginning five years after he retires. BBWAA members with at least 10 consecutive years of membership are eligible to vote. The last time the BBWAA did not elect anybody was 1996.
Eleven former players didn't make the cut and will not be on the ballot again next year.
That list includes Andres Galarraga, Robin Ventura, Ellis Burks, Eric Karros, Kevin Appier, Pat Hentgen and David Segui. Mike Jackson, Ray Lankford, Shane Reynolds and Todd Zeile didn't get any votes.