COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) Andre Dawson left a lasting impression on the ballfield with his true grit and sense of integrity. His eloquent speech upon entering the pantheon of baseball's greatest stars likely won't soon be forgotten, either.
At his induction Sunday into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dawson charmed the audience with a series of jokes, praised the game that gave him a chance in life, chastised those who tarnished its image, and lamented that so many loved ones were not present to share his joy.
"Thank you for welcoming this rookie to your team" said Dawson, who played for a decade in Montreal before signing with the Chicago Cubs in 1987 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."
The 56-year-old Dawson, who endured 12 knee surgeries to forge an impressive 21-year major league career, is the 203rd player in the game's long history to be inducted. Selected in his ninth year of eligibility, the man called "Hawk" took the podium as Cubs and Expos fans roared their approval.
"I never knew what it felt like to be loved by a city until I arrived in Chicago," Dawson told a crowd estimated at around 10,000. "You gave me new life in baseball. You were the wind beneath the Hawk's wings."
Dawson, who finished by paying tribute to his late mother, Mattie Brown, who died four years ago, was part of a class that included former manager Whitey Herzog, umpire Doug Harvey, broadcaster Jon Miller and sports writer Bill Madden.
The ceremony also honored Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty, who sang his classic song "Centerfield." Fogerty wrote the tune 25 years ago and 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. "I wrote that as an 8-year-old boy. That 8-year-old boy right now is saying, 'It ain't getting any better than this.' "
Herzog, 78, who played eight nondescript years for four teams, 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."
As he has so often in the past, Herzog credited Casey Stengel, the Hall of Fame manager of the New York Yankees and Mets, with much of his success.
"Casey told me so many things that became valuable," Herzog said.