COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — "The Hawk" has landed in Cooperstown.
Andre Dawson, who endured 12 knee surgeries to forge an impressive 21-year major-league career, was inducted Sunday into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming just the 203rd player in the game's long history to receive the honor.
"Thank you for welcoming this rookie to your team" said Dawson, who played for a decade in Montreal before signing with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent. "It's an honor beyond words. I didn't play this game with this goal in mind, but I'm living proof that if you love this game, the game will love you back. I am proof that any young person who can hear my voice right now can be standing here as I am."
Dawson, 56, took the podium as Cubs and Expos fans roared approval. He began by thanking his loyal fans from both cities. He then poked fun at several Hall of Famers on the stage behind him.
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"Tom Lasorda, he taught me how to get a free meal. You gotta love Tommy," Dawson said of the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager. "You eat half your meal, then complain and get a whole new free one."
Dawson, an All-Star eight times who had 438 homers, 2,774 hits, 1,591 RBI and 314 stolen bases in his career from 1976-96, then got serious, warning players not to be lured into using performance-enhancing drugs.
"There's nothing wrong with the game of baseball," said Dawson, one of just three players to hit 400 homers and steal 300 bases. "Baseball will, from time to time like anything else in life, fall victim to the mistakes that people make. It's not pleasant and it's not right. Individuals have chosen the wrong road, and they're choosing that as their legacy. Those mistakes have hurt the game and taken a toll on all of us.
"Others still have a chance to choose theirs. Do not be lured to the dark side," he said. "It's a stain on the game, a stain gradually being removed."
Dawson was part of a class that included former manager Whitey Herzog, umpire Doug Harvey, broadcaster Jon Miller and sportswriter Bill Madden. The ceremony also honored Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty, who sang his classic Centerfield.
Fogerty wrote the tune 25 years ago. It had been played at the start of Induction Sunday for more than a decade.
"I'm truly honored," Fogerty said after playing the song on his guitar Slugger, which is shaped like a baseball bat and went on display later in the day inside the Hall of Fame.
Herzog, 78, played eight nondescript years for four teams, then managed for 18 seasons — 11 with the St. Louis Cardinals after stints in Texas, California and Kansas City. He guided the Royals to three consecutive playoff appearances in the 1970s and led the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series title just two years after he was hired.
The Cards also made World Series appearances in 1985 and 1987 under Herzog, who finished his managing career in 1990 with a record of 1,279-1,123, a .532 winning percentage.
"Ever since I was elected in December, people have asked, 'What's it feel like to be a Hall of Famer?' " Herzog said. "Now I can tell you what it feels like. It feels like going to heaven before you die."
Harvey, 80, worked in the National League from 1962 to 1992, called 4,673 regular-season games during his major-league career and also umpired five World Series, six All-Star Games and nine National League Championship Series.
He is the ninth umpire to enter the Hall.