Thus begins my campaign to get Andre Nolan Dawson into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. It’s time to ratchet this shit up, especially in light of this month’s Mitchell Report. Dawson was a major leaguer for twenty years, most—if not all—spent battling chronic knee inuries. He was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1977, won eight Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, played in eight All-Star Games and, along with Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, is the only player to have hit 400 or more home runs and stolen 300 or more bases. In 1987, a free agent and desperate to escape the concrete-like turf of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, he offered to sign a blank contract for Chicago Cubs’ general manager Dallas Green, who promptly filled in the figures for the base minimum. Dawson repaid Green’s big-hearted generosity by hitting 49 home runs and winning the Most Valuable Player award, after finishing second twice before. And what’s most timely, this was accomplished before what now looks to be forever branded as the “steroid era.”
Okay, so he was my favorite player. He even managed to play for my favorite team briefly, if uneventfully. I never claimed objectivity (in the interest of fairness, he was responsible for one of the most inane malapropisms ever uttered). But fuck all that. If it weren’t for that satanic invention called Astroturf, Dawson’s two healthy knees would’ve braced him for the kind of statistical numbers in the eighties that we grew accustomed to seeing in the nineties. He would’ve been the pre-Barry Barry, sans supplements. But that’s alternate-reality shit and Hall voters steadfastly believe in “sticking to the numbers,” or so they claim. I’d like to see the theorem of how Ozzie Smith’s admittedly dazzling fielding acumen can cancel a putrid career at the plate. Then there’s Gary Carter and that shibboleth of the lazy sportswriter: “intangibles.” Being old enough to remember the Expos lineup in which Carter and Dawson both played, I’d proffer that the Hawk and Larry Parrish (later Tim Wallach) instilled more fear in opposing pitchers. And if I have to hear any more “career cut short” bullshit from Kirby Puckett apologists, I will set myself on fire.
Andre Dawson was as fierce a competitor as baseball fans will ever witness and one of the best athletes to play the game “the natural way,” to paraphrase former teammate and current Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. Give him a plaque.