When it was announced last January that Andre Dawson had become the only player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, class of 2010, the widespread debate that takes place yearly questioning a nominee’s worthiness immediately ensued.

Whether critics perceive him deserving of the tribute was immaterial to Dawson as he stood on a stage this past Sunday in Cooperstown, NY, home of the venerable museum, flanked on either side by a multitude of fellow Hall members, and delivered a moving acceptance speech.

“It’s an honor beyond words,” articulated Dawson. “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.”

Dawson played 21 seasons in the Major Leagues and won the 1977 Rookie of the Year award. He ended his career with 438 homeruns and 314 stolen bases. The only other players to have at least 400 homers and 300 steals are Willie Mays and Barry Bonds.

It took Dawson nine times on the ballot to receive the minimum 75 percent of the votes (he garnered 77.9%) from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America members, further affirming that petty politics, superego and bias are prevalent in the process. Election to the Hall is often significantly determined by whether a candidate is well liked by media members and not just a player’s body of work on the diamond.

Case in point: There is little doubt that Roberto Alomar, one of the best second baseman to ever live, should have joined Dawson on the stage Sunday. But unfounded rumors regarding Alomar’s sexual orientation and lifestyle, as well as the infamous incident in 1996 when during a heated exchange, Alomar spat in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck, doomed his chances to be elected in his first year of eligibility. Alomar received 73.7% of the 539 ballots cast.

Joining Dawson were former manager and executive Whitey Herzog; umpire Doug Harvey; broadcaster Jon Miller; and writer Bill Madden.