All you had to know about Andre Dawson's impact on people was the "yes" Yosh Kawano gave to a request to take a photo with the former slugger when he came through town in 2004 as a part-time coach with the Florida Marlins.
As you know, Kawano was part of a cast of off-camera Cubs characters, beginning with director Arne Harris, that Jack Brickhouse popularized over the decades. The diminutive Kawano, noted for his sailor hat and white T-shirt, never sought publicity, shunned interviews and declined to pose for photos. But Dawson was an exception. He grinned from ear to ear as Dawson practically enveloped him, his scultped upper body still impressive at 50, as the shutter clicked.
Why? Kawano said Dawson was the best man he ever had running the Cubs clubhouse over more than a half-century.
When Hall of Fame curators and voters talk about qualifications for enshrinement, character tops the list. "Character" defines Dawson. He was one of the most diginifed, dedicated and principled players to ever draw a Cubs paycheck. Forget about his great batting stats and eight Gold Gloves in the outfield. Dawson's character alone should have punched him an express ticket to Cooperstown.
How dedicated? Dawson put in the extra time before and after games to treat surgery-scarred knees to keep him going. His first of 14 operations took place to repair a high-school football injury, and it was not arthroscopy, just in the experimental stages then. They sliced the knee up good in the old-fashioned way of
How dedicated? Dawson probably came back too quickly from mid-season knee surgery in 1989 to make sure he could watch over kids like Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith. The pain from the knee likely is what hobbled him in the 1989 League Championship Series, when then-Giants hitting coach Dusty Baker warned Dawson they simply weren't going to let him beat them. To his everlasting regret, Dawson wishes he could have laid off those lousy pitches and taken his walks rather than trying to lift the Cubs over the Giants all by himself.
How dedicated? Dawson proclaimed by 1990 or so that he could not manage in the present environment, that players coming up after him weren't as committed to doing what it took to succeed.
How dedicated? If Dawson told you he would do something or be somewhere at an appointed time, his word was his bond. No contracts or agents needed.
How dedicated? Dawson was no gabby conversationalist. But when he did speak, he made all his words count. And, yes, he had a quiet sense of humor.
How dedicated? Until the last couple of years, Dawson made sure he'd be on every Marlins trip back to Wrigley Field. Chicago was his second home. No matter what the Hall of Fame prescribed in its selection of the cap to be displayed on his plaque, he felt like he had always played for the Cubs.
How dedicated? If Chicago fans don't feel, in the course of Andre's Hall of Fame induction speech that they, too, were enshrined, it will be an upset. Dawson's feelings about the fans who became known as "Andre's Army" are that strong.
The love affair between a city and an athlete did not end when GM Larry Himes let Dawson go via free agency in 1992, or when Dawson was given a tribute lap in the Wrigley Field outfield by Ed Lynch and Andy MacPhail in 1996 when, as a Marlin, he was weeks away from his last game.
In 1999, Dawson had to share right field with Sammy Sosa when living members of the Cubs' All-Century Team took the field. After the news of recent years, Dawson should be out in right field all by himself.
How dedicated? Dawson knows he's now in a place where Sosa is not assured of going. We make our choices early on. Dawson chose right, and he gets nothing but eternal thanks from everyone.