I told a pollster from the Associated Press that yes, I will be voting for Mark McGwire for baseball's Hall of Fame.
Circumstantial evidence is not proof, I maintained on a radio talk show. Show me a smoking gun.
Bring me a flunked drug test like Rafael Palmeiro's. Bring me a cracked corked bat like Sammy Sosa's. Bring me something concrete that this big man was a big cheat.
Until then I must give McGwire the benefit of the doubt. I must continue to believe that he hit his 583 home runs not only squarely but fairly. That's what I said.
And then my ballot came.
I checked off Tony Gwynn and his .333 lifetime average and his 3,141 hits, a no-brainer.
I checked off Cal Ripken Jr. and his 3,184 hits and his 2,632-game ironman feat, a piece of cake. Then I came to McGwire's name.
Man, 583 circuit clouts - love that baseball lingo - and a 12-time All-Star to boot. Nice.
How could he not be in the Hall of Fame? Then I came to Mc-Gwire's other batting stats.
Lifetime hits: 1,626.
That's it? Are you serious? Vinny Castilla has more. Jeff Conine has more. Juan Gonzalez has more. Ruben Sierra has more. B.J. Surhoff has 700 more.
The brawny McGwire's career batting average is a scrawny .263. His RBI total of 1,414 is not all that hot for a slugger. It pales next to Palmeiro's. It is more than a couple of hundred shy than that of Harold Baines.
I began to crunch numbers. Andre Dawson's hit total is more than 1,100 higher than McGwire's. He has twice as many doubles. His average is 16 points higher. He has 177 more RBIs.
Dawson also won eight Gold Glove awards at his position. Mc-Gwire won one.
I have voted for Dawson in every Hall of Fame election since his name first came onto the ballot. He has fallen short five times. He received 317 votes a year ago, placing fourth in the final tally behind Bruce Sutter, Jim Rice and Rich "Goose" Gossage. Another 73 votes and Dawson's bust would be in Cooperstown this very day.
Yet where is the groundswell of support on his behalf? Everybody knows Gwynn and Ripken are sure things, and a Boston Red Sox representative has been doing some pretty brisk lobbying for Rice.
What about for Dawson? Who is out there hooting and hollering for "the Hawk?"
Certainly not the Montreal baseball folks. There are no more Montreal baseball folks. The franchise there is kaput. Monsieur Andre spent much of his career up there, laboring in French-Canadian obscurity. No major media exposure. No shot at a World Series to strut his stuff.
Who's out there reminding the North American public that Dawson is among baseball's all-time top 50 in hits, top 35 in home runs, top 25 in total bases, top 25 in RBIs?
Me, I guess.
You want to argue about Mc-Gwire some more? You want to go over a transcript of his Congressional testimony? You want to contrast his "I'm not here to talk about the past" with the 583 home runs he swatted in his past? Be my guest.
As long as you appreciate that in practically every other statistical category, Andre Dawson outdid this man.