Thursday, January 28, 2010

Expos or Cubs

My best recollection of Andre Dawson as a Chicago Cub came July 7, 1987 when at the plate facing the San Diego Padres. Dawson on a hot streak which resulted in three home runs in five plate appearances, stepped into the batter's box again to face Eric Show.

The pitch came high and inside and hit the Cub slugger in the face. From the 200 level of Wrigley Field I heard the contact as if I was in the third base dugout. Dawson when down instantly and lay motionless with Cub personnel rushing out to attend him. Dawson moved very little and the Chicago faithful expected the worse, but didn't expect what was to follow.

Dawson slowly came around. Like a boxer who took one of his final blows, but continued to come back for more, Dawson figured out where he was. He then figured out what just happened to him. As if shot out of a cannon, Dawson sprinted for the pitcher's mound and took one massive swing to the Padres hurler and the bench clearing brawl ensued. Also in the center was Chicago Cub pitcher, Rick Sutcliffe who was right there for the league MVP.

Now over twenty years since that Summer day Andre Dawson enters the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and the question is does he go in as a Montreal Expos or a Chicago Cub?

Dawson first came to the major leagues in the Montreal Expos system. While the Canadian team had little success and finally moved to Washington in the 2000s due to sagging attendance and little ownership support, the years that Dawson played there were some of best in the majors. However post-season success eluded them. After 11 years Dawson moved onto Chicago.

As a Cub Dawson gained national exposure with one of the more faithful fan bases around. Here he earned the MVP on a team that finished dead last in the National League. He earned the support of then St. Louis Cardinal manager, Whitey Herzog as he noted that without him the Cubs wouldn't finish near the top in triple A. But like in Montreal, post-season success avoided Dawson and after six years he moved on.

But the question was raised onto which hat Dawson would wear in the Hall of Fame. Arguments could be made for either side, but the committee got it right this time. He will be remembered as a Montreal Expos.

Dawson may have won the MVP as a Cub, but his best seasons came in Montreal with other great Expos as Tim Raines and Gary Carter. The Expos made Dawson the player he became in Chicago. However this came at a time when baseball games would be nationally shown twice a week and ESPN coverage isn't what baseball fans are accustomed to today. Had the national media been around there, today it wouldn't be a question. All would know "the Hawk" belongs in Cooperstown as a Montreal Expos.

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