Only once, Andre Dawson said, in a career marked almost as much by surgeries as milestones, did he consider quitting.
"My fourth year, I told my wife, 'It's too painful, I can't do it anymore,' " Dawson said yesterday, speaking of a fractured knee he suffered that year. "She looked at me and said, 'You're hurting now, but a year, two years from now, you'll regret walking away from the game.' "
Dawson, who had 12 knee surgeries in his 21-year career, was the only player elected to the Hall of Fame Wednesday, earning 77.9 percent of the vote in his ninth time on the ballot.
"I had a very painful career," said Dawson, speaking at the Waldorf-Astoria at the Hall of Fame news conference. "I had to take medication almost daily to get through those three hours."
Dawson, who has had two knee replacements since his retirement and said another is likely, played the first 11 years of his career on the notoriously firm artificial playing surface of Montreal's Olympic Stadium. He said preserving his knees played the biggest role in taking $500,000, a pay cut of more than half of what he made in 1986, from the Cubs in '87 as a free agent.
"I'd go through an ice treatment, some stretching, get both knees taped," he said. "After the game, I would go through the same scenario - ice down the knees. [I was] thankful that the media waited around for me because some days it would get to be pretty long . . . But had I not really taken care of myself in that manner, I know I wouldn't have lasted as long as 10 years."
The Hall of Fame ultimately decides which team's cap is on each inductee's plaque, though the decision is made in conjunction with the player. That has not yet been determined. But as Dawson talked yesterday, despite tipping his cap to the fans in Montreal and expressing fondness for his time there, he didn't try to mask his love for Chicago and the Cubs, for whom he won the NL MVP in 1987.
"I'll tell you, going to Wrigley Field, playing in the friendly confines amongst the Cubs fans, that was amazing," the eight-time All-Star said. "That really rejuvenated my career, I think. I was at a point in time where I was unsure about myself and the game and how much longer I was going to be in the game. The way the Cubs fans embraced me that first year pretty much propelled me on to winning the National League MVP award. I owe that organization a lot."