Later this morning, Andre Dawson will walk into a ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan, where he will pull on a special cap and jersey, answer questions from reporters and officially begin the final leg of his journey toward immortality.
Dawson -- who played 21 seasons with Montreal, the Chicago Cubs, Boston and Florida -- was the only player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
He'll be inducted July 25 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
A total of 539 voters (including this correspondent) cast ballots in the BBWAA election, which was certified by Ernst & Young. Dawson was named on 420 (77.9 percent), surpassing the minimum of 75 percent (405 votes) necessary for enshrinement.
He didn't get my vote.
Though I think Dawson was an outstanding player and respect his work ethic, grit and impressive statistical dossier (.279 batting average, 438 home runs, 1,591 runs batted in, 314 stolen bases, eight Gold Gloves, eight all-star appearances and National League Rookie of the Year and MVP trophies), I didn't feel like he reached the Cooperstown standard.
Now, I'm not bummed that Dawson got into the Hall. I consider him to be a better player than Boston's Jim Rice, who went in last year -- also without my vote. (My feeling on both Rice and Dawson was that they were great players, but not significantly better than peers like Dave Parker, Dwight Evans and Dale Murphy -- none of whom have a serious chance to get into the Hall.)
In considering this year's ballot, I simply couldn't get past the fact that Dawson's lifetime on-base percentage (.323) was lower than the average player during his career. It's 20 points lower than Lou Brock, who now owns the second-lowest mark among the 68 outfielders in the Hall. I also noted that Dawson drove in 100 runs or more four times and scored 100 runs in a season just twice. (I know those stats are team-dependent, but those benchmarks are used quite a bit by people trying to argue cases in players' favor.)
Again, I'm happy for Dawson. I am, however, a bit bummed about some of the guys that didn't make it.
I thought Roberto Alomar would be a lock. I felt he was one of the most dominant players I saw cover a game, but there is more to Hall of Fame voting than just "feel."
Alomar hit .300 nine times in his career. He surpassed 400 steals, 200 homers, 1,500 runs and 1,000 RBI. He also won 10 Gold Gloves and led the league in sacrifice hits and sacrifice flies (an indication of a team player).
I thought he was a lock, and he fell eight votes short. Perhaps the incident in which he spit on umpire John Hirschbeck hurt him. Maybe voters wanted him to wait a year to avoid bestowing first-ballot status. The only thing I know is that as disheartening as the result must have been for Alomar, it can't compare to what Bert Blyleven experienced. Blyleven, who was on the ballot for the 13th time, missed the magic number for enshrinement by an agonizingly close five votes.
I vote for Blyleven each year without hesitation and wonder why more of my colleagues don't. The best I can gather is that Blyleven didn't have the aura of greatness that many attribute to Rice, Dawson and others.
While those guys have some holes in their statistical resumes, Blyleven's numbers are amazing. Though he didn't pile up 20-victory seasons, in part because he spent time on some mediocre to bad clubs, he ranks fifth all-time in strikeouts. He won 287 games, including a whopping 60 shutouts. One of my friends points out that Blyleven wasn't an ace on the 1988 Twins team. Of course, he was 37 by then and had already thrown more than 4,000 innings in his career.
The other player on my ballot was Tim Raines, who once again garnered little support among voters.
Rickey Henderson was a no-brainer and Raines was a notch below him in most categories, except slugging percentage (which surprised me). Raines reached base 4,000 times, had a .385 career on-base percentage, was one of the best base-stealers of all-time. During a five-year span that represented his peak, he generated 11 homers, 34 doubles, 10 triples, 71 steals and 114 runs.
Blyleven, Raines and Alomar will be on the radar again next year, along with an interesting array of first-time nominees like Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro.
Here is a look at the Hall of Fame balloting, with total votes and percentage listed in parentheses:
Andre Dawson 420 (77.9)
Bert Blyleven 400 (74.2)
Roberto Alomar 397 (73.7)
Jack Morris 282 (52.3)
Barry Larkin 278 (51.6)
Lee Smith 255 (47.3)
Edgar Martinez 195 (36.2)
Tim Raines 164 (30.4)
Mark McGwire 128 (23.7)
Alan Trammell 121 (22.4)
Fred McGriff 116 (21.5)
Don Mattingly 87 (16.1)
Dave Parker 82 (15.2)
Dale Murphy 63 (11.7)
Harold Baines 33 (6.1)
Andres Galarraga 22 (4.1)
Robin Ventura 7 (1.3)
Ellis Burks 2 (0.4)
Eric Karros 2 (0.4)
Kevin Appier 1 (0.2)
Pat Hentgen 1 (0.2)
David Segui 1 (0.2)
Mike Jackson 0 (0)
Ray Lankford 0 (0)
Shane Reynolds 0 (0)
Todd Zeile 0 (0)
Players may remain on the ballot for up to 15 years provided they receive five percent of the vote in any year. There were 11 candidates who failed to make the cut this year, all among the 15 players who were on the ballot for the first time.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.