An Ode to "The Hawk" -- And How Long Till Our First (Real) Marlin Hall of Famer?

Technically, Andre Dawson is the first Florida Marlin to be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. But that's merely a trivia question: Dawson retired as a Marlin in 1996 after having arrived here the previous year. We're still waiting for the first player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame based on his Marlins oeuvre.

Because it was Dawson's career with the Chicago Cubs that established him -- barely, it seems -- as a Hall inductee. He arrived in Chicago in 1987, year removed from a season in which he hit a rather pedestrian 20 home runs. For the Cubs, he belted 49 en route to winning the league's MVP. He was 32 years old.

Performance-enhancing drugs? That's the response conditioned in fans after a decade devastated by that scandal. You might say Hawk was on grass -- literally, the authentic turf of Wrigley Field, after eight punishing seasons patrolling the cement-like Astroturf of Montreal's egregious Olympic Stadium. Also, the fences were more inviting in Wrigley than in Montreal.

Even so, it was painful to watch Dawson walk to the plate on those knees, much less watch him sprint into the Wrigley Field ivy to rob someone of an extra-base hit. He was skinny in the pre-steroid era, generating all his power from within a patented stance where he transferred all of his modest weight from his back foot to his front. Every home run by The Hawk looked identical.

A big smile off the field, where he was very active in charities, Dawson was stoic, intense when he stopped on the field, even deep into losing seasons on terrible Expos and Cubs teams -- the latter finished in last place in the year he won MVP. Had Dawson ever been lucky enough to have played with a better supporting cast, he wouldn't have had such a long wait for Cooperstown.

Now who will be the first Marlin to make it to the hall? Unfortunately, "Mr. Marlin," Jeff Conine, isn't quite there. And so many of the contributors to those past Marlins World Series champions were just passing through, either as free agents or as young stars who would spend their primes in another uniform. On the current roster, though, Hanley Ramirez is on a Hall of Fame pace. But there's an awfully long way to go.

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Thomas Francis