Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dawson Wanted a Different Hat in the Hall

“I’m disappointed. I can proudly say that because Chicago was my preference.”

- Andre Dawson on Chicago radio station WMVP-AM

After waiting and wondering, retired MLB player Andre Dawson finally got the call he was hoping to receive, the call to enter the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York. As the only player voted in this year by the Baseball Writers of America, the spotlight will shine brightly on the outfielder known to his legions of fans as The Hawk.

When the news was announced, reports began to surface that Dawson and the HOF committee were in discussions as to which team's cap he would enter the Hall wearing. Perhaps a trivial mater in real life but it is a question of utmost importance in the world of baseball. Many believed that the dilemma facing Dawson was that he wanted to enter as an Expo; the Hall wanted him in as a Chicago Cub. As it turns out, the opposite was true, Dawson is joining Gary Carter as the only Expos ever enshrined in the hallowed hall and apparently, he is "disappointed" about their decision.

It is true, Dawson's best season came in Chicago during the 1987 season, his first year with the Cubs and most American fans will picture him in Wrigley Field as a Cub; an entire generation of fans in Montreal and all of Canada have always held a special place in their heart for Dawson. They will forever see him in their mind's eye, patrolling the outfield in the cavernous Olympic Stadium.

Dawson came to La Belle Province in 1975 as an eleventh round selection of the Montreal Expos in the amateur draft. He made his debut with Montreal on September 11th, 1976, appearing in 24 games that season. By 1977, he was a regular in the outfield and would spend 11 seasons in Montreal before numerous knee injuries and the horrendous artificial turf in the Olympic Stadium forced him to leave via free agency. During his time in Montreal, he was the National League’s Rookie of the Year, a six-time Gold Glove winner and a three-time all-star. Eleven of his twenty-one seasons in professional baseball was as a member of the Expos.

His career stats in Montreal: 1443 games played, 1575 hits, 225 home runs, 838 runs batted in and 253 stolen bases.

Looking at his career in Chicago, it is important to remember Dawson entered free agency at a time when the owners in major league baseball were trying to control their own outrageous spending habits; it is also known as the era of collusion. Having said that, many General mangers believed Dawson’s career was almost done due to his numerous knee injuries. When spring training arrived, he remained unsigned until the Chicago Cubs and GM Dallas Green signed him to a contract at the league minimum.

He went on to win the MVP Award, hitting a career high 49 home runs and adding 137 RBI’s to his totals. Astounding numbers on a team that lost 85 games, while winning only 76 and finishing last in their division. The Hawk would play six seasons in Chicago, never matching his MVP season. He finished his career with two years in Boston with the Red Sox and the final two years in Florida with the Marlins. An amazing 21-year career, worthy of his Hall of Fame invite.

The saga of the Montreal Expos is certainly well documented, almost eliminated by the MLB in contraction, along with the Minnesota Twins; the Expos would eventually become the sad-sack Washington Nationals. While the fan support disappeared in Montreal after the numerous “fire-sales”, trading away every rising young star, in the 1980’s the Expos were almost on even footing with the Montreal Canadiens in the hearts of Quebecers.

Seeing Dawson enter the Hall of Fame as an Expo would have been a glorious opportunity to tip his cap to the province and the city where his career began. Unfortunately for Montreal fans, Dawson would prefer to wear a Cubs cap into the Hall. He is certainly entitled to his opinion, he is a Hall of Famer - but - now that he has spoken out about his preference, one has to wonder how sincere any praise for Montreal will be when he takes the podium this summer.

In a world with much bigger problems, it is easy to say, “Who cares?”, but in a sport that embraces its roots and has such a storied history, it would be wonderful to see the Expos accepted as part of that history. The Hall of Fame committee attempted to welcome in another Expo, it is too bad he wants to be a Cub. One more blemish on the tarnished history of the Expos.

Photo by permanently scatterbrained on Flickr

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