I collect baseball cards and am a big baseball fan. Within the last year or so, I decided to focus on Hall of Fame players. When I did, I saw that well over half of the players enshrined in Cooperstown I either had never heard of (e.g. Stan Covaleski) or had heard of but knew nothing about (e.g. Al Simmons). In this blog I hope to tell something interesting about each of the slightly over 200 players in the Hall of Fame and show a card or two that for one reason or another I've collected or that I found as an image on the web that I like. I hope that if anyone winds up reading these posts that they will add comments about other interesting facts, anecdotes, or personal contacts about the player I've written about or share an interesting photo or card.
I thought I'd start with Andre Dawson, who was elected last week and will be enshrined next summer. Dawson started with the Expos in 1976 and played there for a little over 10 years. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1977. His parents must have foreseen he'd play in Quebec when they gave him the name Andre - hardly a common name, I'd think, in Miami, where he was born. He was known for his power-speed production - one of my favorite combinations in baseball. He hit over 400 home runs and stole over 300 bases. One of the few players ever to do so. (I think Willie Mays was the other.) He was also a great center fielder until his knees went bad and he was shifted to right field. He won 8 Gold Gloves. Power, speed, and defense. I love those kind of players. He famously moved in 1987 to Chicago during the collusion years and offered to play for the Cubs for any amount they wanted to pay him. The Cubs low-balled him that year but signed him; he hit 49 homers and won the NL MVP even though the Cubs finished last. He played for the Cubs for 6 years before finishing out his career with the Red Sox (2 years) and the Marlins (2 years). Bill James wote in his Historical Abstract that Dawson did not deserve the NL MVP in 1987 and that there were over 20 players who deserved it more that year. Hard to imagine given the numbers Dawson produced that year. Dawson's numbers benefited from moving from a bad offensive park in Montreal to a good offensive park at Wrigley field. His numbers make it look like he got better (or at least stayed the same) as the years rolled on when the real reason for his increased or steady production was the change in where he played. The player that he most resembles in this respect to me anyway is Henry Aaron who moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta. I don't remember ever seeing Dawson play even though I was a fan during his entire career. I follow the Mariners up here in Seattle and Dawson only played 2 years in the American League. My only opportunity to see him would have been in the playoffs or World Series. But amazingly, he played in only two post-season series during his 20-year career - with the Expos in the strike-shortened 1981 Divisional Series and with the Cubs in 1989. Each team was eliminated in the first round.
I was happy to see Dawson (nicknamed "The Hawk") elected to the Hall because I pulled a card from a Topps Triple Threads pack back in 2007 that I really like. Now I have a new addition to my Hall of Fame collection. The card has a sticker autograph, two bat chips, and a very cool patch swatch that looks like it came from a Cubs' road jersey. The card is serial numbered 9/9. His signature is elegant in bright blue ink but you have to know it's his signature. It's unreadable. He's wearing a Cubs' uniform in the photo, which is apparently how he's going to be featured at Cooperstown. I would rather he be shown as an Expo. I loved their uniforms - especially their caps. I thought it was very cool to have a team that played in Montreal. It's the most European of North American cities that I've been too. It's the only place in Canada where I feel I'm really in a different country except maybe for Victoria, BC (which is as British as Montreal is French). Gary Carter is the only player who is currently enshrined as an Expo. I guess he'll be the only one. Dawson is said to be a great gentleman. I imagine that there are fewer of those in the Hall than we'd like - just as in everyday life. Maybe Cal Ripken and Stan Musial can show The Hawk around.