Happy Belated Birthday, Andre Dawson

No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. I watched him win an MVP for a last-place team in 1987 [with the Cubs], and it was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here someday.

That quote comes from Ryne Sandberg’s Hall of Fame induction speech, one of the key pieces of the ‘put Dawson in the Hall’ campaign, if you ask me.

A star with the Expos and a superstar with the Cubs, Hawk is one of my favorite Cubs of all-time.

Per Wikipedia: Dawson finished his career with 2,774 hits, 438 home runs, 314 stolen bases, and 1,591 RBI. He is one of only six players in major league history to record over 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases in his career (300-300 club); the other players to accomplish this are Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds, Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley. Dawson is also one of only three members of the 400 HR-300 SB club, along with Barry Bonds and Willie Mays.

Talk about being in excellent company (aside from Barry Bonds).

I believe the Cubs should retire number eight in honor of Dawson. His career slugging percentage of .507 while in a Cubs uniform is fourth all-time for the team. He won the MVP with the Cubs in 1987, a team that went 76-85, finishing last in the NL East. In tying in the All-Star festivities, Dawson also won the HR Derby in 1987. On every available platform imaginable, Dawson was showcased as a great Cub on and off the field. Every stage that is, except a World Series. I’m guessing it must have been incredibly bittersweet for Dawson for him to win his first and only ring with the Florida Marlins in 2003. To receive a ring after playing and being a part of the game for so many years, I’m sure that is an unreal feeling. However, for the Marlins to do it the way they did, plowing through the favored Cubs at Wrigley, highlighted by ‘The Bartman Game’…I’m sure Hawk deep down had some uncomfortable feelings in watching his then current team do in his old team that way.

Andre Dawson’s story is largely why I respect the organization as much as I do. If you read my writing on a regular basis, you know how much I respect the history of the team and classy way in which members of the team and front office handle themselves with the media, other organizations as well as the fan base. The Cubs held the same appeal to Dawson. After his final season in Montreal in 1986, Dawson was in need of a ballclub whose home field was natural grass and not turf, to give his ailing knees a long needed break. Think about how many teams back then played on natural grass. Only a handful played on astroturf. The league was practically a buffet of natural grass sites for Dawson to sign with as a free agent.

He selected Wrigley Field and the Cubs as his destination of choice.

After general manager Dallas Green turned initial talks down, Dawson and his agent approached him at the Cubs spring training facility in Mesa with a blank contract. Pay me what you will…I want to be a part of the Cubs’ organization. Green eventually came around and made a lowball offer. $500,000 salary plus $250,000 if he made the all-star team, started the all-star team or won the NL MVP.

Dawson accomplished all three. The fact that he reached all three goals is stunning in and of itself. However, I admire the fact that he wanted to be a part of the Cubs so badly, that he was willing to play for any amount. The list of people that would offer to do that for the Cubs is extremely short, however those people are the type of people you want to be a part of the organization. After locking himself into the Cubs fold, he then made sure that the Cubs weren’t let down including a stat line that showcased 49 HR’s for the season.

Winning an MVP with a losing ballclub, especially one that comes in last place is a special thing. There are many things in sports you sit around wondering if it will ever happen again. In today’s sports culture, I’m not so sure that it will. Nowadays, winning takes precedence. If you have two players who put up similar numbers and one of them is on a division winning team and the other is in last place, no dice last place player…the hardward is going to the division champ. Back then, it was more about the title of the award. Who was the most valuable player in the league? Who was producing the most? Period. And the answer was Andre Dawson.

When Dawson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he requested his plaque show him enshrined wearing a Cubs cap. I believe that the player should have the say as to which hat he wears in the Hall. I believe it will tell you a lot about the player and how he felt about his time spent with the various teams along his career’s timeline. Considering how successful Dawson was with Montreal, it says a lot about how he felt regarding his time with the Cubs. And using Boggs as an example as I have before, imagine if Wade Boggs went into the Hall wearing a Tampa Bay Devil Rays hat as he requested? What does that say for how he felt about the Red Sox once all was said and done?

Baseball is more than just numbers. Allowing players to choose the cap they want to wear in the Hall adds to the lore. Dawson wanted a Cubs hat. I believe he should have had his wish granted.

Yesterday, The Hawk turned 57. Look at the on-line stats and awards and you’ll find his resume to include 8 all-star appearances, 8 gold gloves, an MVP, 4 Silver Sluggers, a Rookie of the Year Award (1977), time with the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins; and stats that read: .274 AVG, 2,774 Hits, 438 HR, 1,591 RBI. Impressive to say the least.

Add in the intangibles and Dawson is easily one of the greatest to play the game. The game believes it and has inducted him justly. It’s time for the Cubs to throw a belated birthday present Dawson’s way and hang a new flag at Wrigley. #8: DAWSON. Happy belated birthday, Andre. Go Cubs Go!

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