Perhaps most notably of all, The Hawk softly advised current players not to be “moved to the dark side” by using PEDs like so many (unnamed) others have done over the years, which as Dawson rightly notes, has “hurt the game and taken a toll on all of us” and become a “stain” that is “gradually being removed.”
As far as Dawson himself is concerned, there is little doubt that during his 21 seasons (1976-1996) in Montreal, Chicago, Boston, and finally in his native state of Florida with the Marlins, the center fielder/right fielder played the game right and clean. The man had 13 knee surgeries during his pro and college career and could’ve easily benefited from the anabolic steroids, but he knew better than to tarnish his legacy with quick, illegal fixes. Instead, he iced down and repaired his injuries the hard way over the years and still put out consistent and team-leading power numbers year after year for the bulk of his career and on teams not known for producing tons of power strokers.
Was his career definitely Hall of Fame worthy? Year by year, his numbers look mildly impressive now compared to the steroid-inflated numbers of most of the past 15 years, and maybe he and others (like Jim Rice) were punished by that in past years of Hall voting, fairly or unfairly, despite the fact that he hit the magic number of 400 homers, which used to be an automatic ticket to Cooperstown. But he finished with 438 career homers, 1591 RBIs, 2,774 hits, along with eight Gold Gloves in the outfield, eight all-star selections, the NL Rookie of the Year honor (1977, with the Expos), one MVP award (1987, with the Cubs), two MVP runner-up placements, four Silver Slugger awards and 314 stolen bases (which is a ton for a power hitter).
Like recent inductee Jim Rice, the man was one of the most feared hitters of his time, as he got intentionally walked 143 times in his career, including a league-leading total 21 times in 1990, his 15th year in MLB. So in short, I’d say yes he definitely deserves his induction. Sure, it took over 20 seasons for him to get those numbers, but if the likes of Tony Perez can get rewarded for longevity (23 years) and inducted based on more or less similar numbers, so too can The Hawk.