By Craig Muder
The fans were lined up at the ticket booth, waiting to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame on a perfect Saturday morning in Cooperstown.
Without warning, into the foyer walked Andre Dawson for a photo opportunity.
Exactly 26 seconds later, you could hear the hushed gasp: “That’s Andre Dawson!”
Correction: That’s Andre Dawson, Hall of Famer.
“I can’t go too many places any more without being appreciated, so that’s one of the biggest changes since I was elected to the Hall of Fame,” Dawson said. “It has opened my eyes to the fact that I did something that people really appreciated.”
Appreciation for Dawson’s talent and work ethic were on display Saturday as a near-capacity crowd in the Hall of Fame’s Grandstand Theater welcomed him to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame’s Character and Courage Weekend. Dawson participated in a Voices of the Game program where he recounted his career path and discussed the character that resulted in his stellar 21-season big league career.
“I knew I wasn’t flashy, but I wanted to leave it all on the field,” said Dawson, looking fit and relaxed in his first return to Cooperstown since his July 25 induction. “Once someone said that I was like Roberto Clemente – only with bad knees. That’s a huge compliment.”
Clemente is one of three Hall of Famers – along with Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson – who are represented in the Museum’s Character and Courage exhibit. Made possible by through a gift from Hall of Fame supporter Bob Crotty, the permanent exhibit celebrates character and courage on and off the baseball field. The Hall of Fame celebrates character and courage annually during Columbus Day Weekend.
Dawson, who had 12 knee surgeries during a career that saw him become one of baseball’s leading citizens, drew several thunderous ovations during the program while discussing his legendary career.
“I’m not as old as I pretend to be, but I’m very content where I am right now,” said the 56-year-old former outfielder for the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins. “This is a way of life now, and I’m thankful for every opportunity.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.