Finally, Dawson elected to Hall; Blyleven, Alomar just shy
By BOB NIGHTENGALE
With a consistent career and impeccable reputation off the field on his resume, Andre Dawson was rewarded Wednesday with election to baseball’s Hall of Fame in his ninth year on the ballot.
“It was well worth the wait,” he said in a conference call. “I can’t really describe the elation my family and I felt when I got that call. I’ve been patient over the years. My mom always said, it’s going to happen, it’s inevitable, just be ready for when it happens.”
Dawson received 420 of 539 votes in voting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, 15 more than the 75 percent percent necessary to gain induction into the Cooperstown shrine. The eight-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner was 44 votes short last year.
Bert Blyleven finished second to Dawson, five votes shy with 400 and 74.2 percent, followed by Roberto Alomar who had 397 votes (73.7 percent). It was the first time in BBWAA balloting that two candidates failed to gain induction by fewer than 10 votes.
Alomar, a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner who finished with a .300 career batting average, was considered a leading candidate but perhaps was penalized for a 1996 incident in which he spat on umpire John Hirschbeck.
Alomar was stunned by the omission. He had extreme confidence he would be inducted. He had already scheduled a celebratory dinner Wednesday night with his family and agent John Boggs, who flew from San Diego.
Blyleven, who received 18 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot in 1998, said his disappointment was tempered by the fact his vote total jumped nearly 13 percent from a year ago.
“I’m a little disappointed,” Blyleven said in a telephone interview with the MLB Network. “I just got a phone call from (Hall of Famer) Harmon Killebrew. He said hang in there, you’re going to be in there.
”Five votes short is a little bit on the sad side, but my percentages jumped up a lot from last year.
“I’m very, very happy for Andre Dawson, but I am surprised that Roberto Alomar did not make it, but his time is coming too.”
Dawson said he woke up Wednesday at 6 a.m. and went to the gym, just as he has in previous years on the day the Hall of Fame results were announced. He also visited the graves of his mother, uncle and grandmother.
“I felt a little more optimistic about this year and wanted to share a few things at that gravesite,” Dawson said. “It meant a lot to me to get out there, get that off my mind. It alleviated a lot of the nervousness I was starting to encounter.
Dawson, the 1987 NL MVP winner for the Chicago Cubs, is one of three players in history with at least 400 homers and 300 steals, joining Barry Bonds and Hall of Famer Willie Mays. He finished his career with 2,774 hits, 438 homers and 1,591 RBI, and the 18 eligible players who produced 400 homers and 1,500 RBI are all in the Hall of Fame.
While Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run leader is not eligible to be on the ballot until 2012, Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame candidacy continues to suffer from allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire received just 23.7 percent of the vote.
He was hired in the offseason to be the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach after hitting 583 home runs in his career. He has not received more than 24 percent of the vote in four years on the ballot.
Fred McGriff, who hit 493 home runs during his career but has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, also fell considerably short with 21.5 percent. Edgar Martinez, one of the all-time great designated hitters, received 36.2 percent. Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, the 1995 NL MVP and 12-time All-Star, finished fifth with 51.6 percent of the vote, one behind pitcher Jack Morris (52.3 percent).
The other holdovers who will remain on the ballot are pitcher Lee Smith, first baseman Don Mattingly, outfielder-DH Harold Baines and outfielders Tim Raines, Dave Parker and Dale Murphy.