Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Andre Dawson

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A tale of two hitters -- revisited

Editor's Note: This article was originally written way back on January 8th of this year.  In light of Andre Dawson's admission into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, we thought it might be appropriate to republish it -- especially since we know that about half of you don't read the blogs every day in the winter time, and could have missed it

A Tale of Two Hitters
As he stood before the throng of reporters and flashing cameras, Andre Dawson said something yesterday that I'd never known about him.  He spoke of his mother, who died in 2006.

From the article: She would have been 71, but she died in May 2006.

"I just wanted to thank her," Dawson said Thursday. "I went to her grave site. I prayed and thanked her for the job she did as a mother, father and big sister to me. She probably was my best friend."

Dawson was born in 1954 to Mattie Brown, then a single, 16-year-old girl who, along with his grandmother, went on to raise him into the person he is today.  Probably no baseball fan truly knows the player he's cheering (or booing), and I certainly wasn't aware of that part of the Hawk's story.  But what I do know about him is this: he was a cherished man in Chicago, a consummate professional admired by his teammates and worshiped by his fans.  It seems then that, like Dawson, we owe Mattie Brown a debt of gratitude.

Contrast that with Milton Bradley, who shares more than a few incidental similarities with Dawson.  According to Alan Schwartz of ESPN, Bradley was born in 1978 to Charlina Rector, who by then was already a single mother of four.  Bradley's father Milton Sr. -- whose name he passed onto his son while Rector was still unconscious from having given birth -- was a cocaine addict who'd left Rector several months previous.  Bradley's mother raised and tried to protect him from the world and from his abusive father, and like Dawson the circumstances of his birth directed him to become the person he is today.  Perhaps at home, away from the scrutinizing baseball fans who have heckled him, Bradley is a good husband and father -- i.e. everything his father wasn't -- but on the field he is an antagonistic, confrontational player despised by the fans and ambivalent to his teammates.

Dawson's grandmother -- who died before he reached the majors -- convinced him to go to university.  Bradley went into the draft straight from high school.  Both men were selected by the same team -- the Expos picked Dawson in the 11th round of the 1975 draft, Bradley was chosen in the 2nd round of the 1996 draft.  Dawson kept his nose down and excelled with a focus "that was never seen for somebody (his) age," (hence his nickname, "The Hawk"), Bradley grew to mistrust authority figures and was suspended multiple times for antics like poking umpires and spitting on them. 

By the time Dawson was 22 years old, he was playing in Montreal full-time.  He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1977, for having slugged 19 homeruns and batted .282 while stealing 21 bases.  Bradley struggled in his early years in Montreal, resulting in his first of many trades.  He was sent to the Indians at 23, and he didn't really start to light it up until 2003 when he batted .321 in 101 games played.

Eventually, the Hawk wore himself down in Montreal.  He spent a decade in the French-Canadian city, destroying his knees on the hard artificial turf even as he collected 6 Gold Gloves, 3 All Star appearances, and 2 runner-up MVP finishes.  Then, at the age of 32, in order to preserve his career, Dawson landed in Chicago for a pittance - a 1-year contract for $500,000.

Bradley, meanwhile, suffered a variety of leg injuries as well, although he more wore out his welcome than wore himself down.  After 2 full seasons in Cleveland -- which including incidents in which he was scolded by Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel for a lack of professionalism -- he finally exhausted the Indians' patience in the Spring Training of 2004 and was dealt to Los Angeles. 

He played there for two turbulent seasons -- which included even more tantrums and suspensions -- before being dealt to the Athletics.  Then Oakland designated him for assignment on July 21st, 2007, and the Padres picked him up.  With the Padres, Bradley provided a brief jolt to the San Diego offense before blowing out an ACL in the final week of the season while being restrained from confronting an umpire.  He then signed a one-year-deal with the Texas Rangers, where he reportedly informed the team late in the 2008 season that he'd be sitting out games so as to not risk injury and deflate his chances of receiving an impressive contract offer that winter.  Then, at the age of 31, Bradley landed in Chicago for an exorbitant sum of money -- $30 million for 3 years.

Dawson's time in Chicago was nothing short of glorious.  In his first year with the Cubs, the Hawk won the MVP award for a last place team while slugging 49 homeruns and driving in 137 RBI -- all for $500,000, a sum that would have insulted most stars.  He did it on two bad knees -- for which he'd have more than 20 operations on over the span of his life -- and without complaint.  As a result, the fans loved him.  They bowed to him in the outfield, chanting "Awesome Dawson" whenever he made an outstanding offensive or defensive play.  They wore his jersey.  They worshiped him.

At his Hall of Fame press conference, Dawson said this about Cub fans, and in light of recent seasons and recent accusations by various acquisitions, one can't help but wonder if his comments were directed at some people:

"I'll tell you, going to Wrigley Field, playing in the Friendly Confines amongst the Cubs fans, that was amazing in itself.

"That really rejuvenated my career, I think, and put me at a point in time where I was unsure about myself in the game, and how much longer I was going to stay in the game. The way the Cubs fan embraced me that first year pretty much propelled me on to win the National League MVP award and I owe that organization a lot for believing in me.

"They didn't really meet the demands initially, but I just felt that since I played in a media center, I played somewhere where the fans really took a hold and adored me, and made me really want to go out and want to be, not a crowd-pleaser, but to not embarrass them and just give it what they expect day-in and day-out."

Bradley's time in Chicago was nothing more than tumultuous.  He started out slowly and was booed for his effort -- or lack thereof.  In the first year of his contract (in which he'd signed with the expectation of delivering a run-producing bat in the middle of the order) Bradley batted .257 and hit 12 homeruns while driving in 40.  He described his experience with Cub fans as this:

"It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everyone is just bashing you. You go out there and play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity. ... And you understand why they haven't won in 100 years here, because it's negative. It's what it is." 

It turns out, according to Bradley, that Cub fans are not welcoming.  They are not the loving group of fans that cheered for Andre Dawson two decades earlier.  They are instead racist:

"I'm talking about hatred, period. I'm talking about when I go to eat at a restaurant, I have to listen to the waiters bad-mouthing me at another table, sitting in a restaurant, that's what I'm talking about -- everything."

As a result of a season of confrontations, harsh words, and disrespectful actions, Bradley was suspended on September 20th by Jim Hendry and dealt to the Mariners in the off-season.  He wasn't even able to last a single year with the Cubs.

It's doubtful that they've ever met, but I wonder what Andre Dawson and Milton Bradley would make of each other if they did.  Would Bradley see in Dawson a sell-out, a man who submerged his well-justified rage in order to get along with people who couldn't possibly understand the past that drives him?  Would Dawson see in Bradley a lost cause, a talented athlete who was never able to overcome his greater demons despite the support of a loving wife and the love of a doting mother?

Whatever would happen, Cub fans have now experienced polar opposites.  We've had the talented hitting right fielder who played hurt and was a consummate professional, and we've seen the talented hitting right fielder who lived his life hurt and was consumed by his anger.  If possible, Bradley may have served in at least one positive role -- he's helped us remember and appreciate Dawson even more.

Mattie Brown has been dead for more than three years.  She never had the chance to see her son honored by the Hall of Fame, but she surely knew it was coming.  She raised her son right.  Charlina Rector probably did everything in her power to raise her son right, too.  Rather than condemning Rector for failing, let's instead praise Brown for succeeding.  It's never easy to be a single parent, whether you are 16 when your child is born as Brown was, or already a mother of four as Rector was.  For the unlikely success that he's had over the span of his life and baseball career, we should appreciate Dawson even more.  He was clearly deserving of our adoration, whether he was trying to be a crowd-pleaser or not.

Recap(s): Super Fun Edition (Cubs 5, Cards 0; Cubs 6, Cards 5)

It seems like everything but the product on the field has been unbearble for the past two days at the Friendly Confines.  Despite oppressive heat and humidity, the Cubs have found a way to take the first two games of the series against the division rival and spawn of satan Cardinals.  Let's break it down.

In an opening game that is sure to spawn another book by Tony LaRussa about how much he hates Mark Prior, the Cubs toyed with Jeff Suppan while getting a much needed performance out of Randy Wells.  While Dave Duncan is usually the King Midas of reclaimation projects, I think he bit off more than he could chew in the re-signing of Jeff Suppan.  The six-inning outing by Suppan was a tie for his longest outing of the year, despite giving up 5 ER and 3 HR.  There is just a certain point where a "crafty veteran" loses the craftiness and his stuff just hangs over the plate.  If this season between Milwaukee and St. Louis is any indication, Suppan has reached that point.

Tyler Colvin, Geo Soto, and Alfonso Soriano didn't seem to mind the fact that Suppan was toeing the rubber on Friday.  In the leadoff role (10 games), Colvin has flourished with a .302/.375/.651 line, accumulating 5 HR and 13 RBI's out of that spot.  Those numbers are hard to argue with, but I still stand by my earlier statement that I'd rather see Starlin Castro in the leadoff role due to the speed he brings to the table.  Perhaps a flip-flop of Castro and Colvin in the lineup would give us an even more potent 1-2 punch.

Speaking of Castro, he flashed some rare power in the game on Saturday.  The fact that we don't see him hit "for power" very often is something that both shocks me and, at the same time, makes me happy.  The shock comes from the fact that the swing he put on the ball yesterday was smooth and gorgeous, and it looks like something he could repeat.  On the other hand, the lack of power numbers combined with Castro's recent success at the plate show that he is really doing a lot with what is given to him, and not forcing anything.

Cub pitching has also taken center stage with great starting performances by Tommy G and Randy Wells.  Moreover, the bullpen, specifically Sean Marshall, has impressed me.  As serviceable of a starter Marshall has/could be, the repetoire he brings out of the bullpen is unlike most relievers.  The way he can change a hitter's eye level is vital in late game situations.

Overall, it has been a good two days.  I'd love to see us take the sweep later tonight.  However, our attention should be turned to more important matters right now.  One of my childhood idols, and I'm sure many of the readers here feel the same, is being inducted into the Hall of Fame today.  While he may not don a hat with a big red "C" upon entry, he will always be a Cub to me, to the game of baseball, and in his own view.  Congrats, Hawk:  you gave your heart, soul and body to the game of baseball and because of that, you will forever be able to call Chicago home.

OMG - Tangentially Cub-related incident that makes me proud to be an American

This one is for a young man named Kurt.


You all know that Hanley Ramirez dogged it, got benched, then acted like a bitch.


Then he got called into the office with Andre Dawson and Tony Perez.



MAN, that's strong.  Two Hall-of-Famers, two Special Assistants for the Marlins, two straight-up iron-fisted bad-assed stud hosses who never took a gatdam play off in their entire LIVES!! 


Hawk started the conversation by noting 'I'm not going to say a lot, because if you say the wrong the thing to me, then you might wind up on the floor on your rear end.'  Perez stood there and nodded. 


This actually happened.  They told the spoiled young punk to respect.


I am literally tearful with pride that such men still exist in today's namby-pamby world. 

Retire No.8

Back before we knew that Andre Dawson would be adorned in the Hall of Fame as an Expo, there was some talk that, if he went in as a Cub, the Chicago organization would honor him by retiring his jersey.  You'd think that I'd support this idea, since I love Andre Dawson in almost a gay way.  But I'm not. 

After all -- while Dawson certainly blazed his Hall of Fame trail in a Cubs uniform, while he is most certainly identifiable as a Cub above all other teams (at least in my semi-biased opinion), it is hard to argue that he meant more to the Cubs organization than a number of other guys whose numbers have not been retired.  Therefore, before the Cubs raise the #8 flag in Chicago, they should strongly consider re-vamping their jersey-retirement system.  Either that or they need to come clean and acknowledge that they are the biggest Hall of Fame marks in the history of the world, as they practically had to be goaded into retiring Ron Santo's number once they realized the Hall was too stupid to let him in.  Ron Santo.  As if they should've needed time to figure out that he is one of the great all-time Cubs.

My general take on jersey retirement is this: if there is a player who stayed with the team for a decade or more, who defined the team for a generation of fans -- whether he was Hall of Fame-bound or not -- then the team should honor him by retiring his jersey.

In Dawson's case, he's a bit short of that criteria, even though he was amazing as a Cub.  In recent memory, though, the following players probably deserve props that the Cubs organization will never give:

  • Aramis Ramirez - he has a way to go before he's really justified as a pick.  But if Aramis remains a Cub through 2012 or so, and if he keeps hitting the ball, then it should be locked in.
  • Carlos Zambrano - this will be his 10th season with the Cubs.  Can you believe it?  He's not even 30 yet!  The Moose has been a Cubs since 2001, and he's been one of the best on the team since 2003.  He shouldn't have to do much at this point to warrant being honored.
  • Sammy Sosa - sure, he's a douchebag.  Sure, we sort of hate him.  He cheated.  He dishonored the game.  But he was a helluva player!  13 years in Chicago, 545 career homers as a Cub, there's no doubt that Sosa's jersey needs to be hung up in Wrigley.
  • Kerry Wood  eh, or maybe not.  Yes, Wood was a Cub from 1998 through 2008.  Sure, absolutely, he defined the team in his stay there.  He pitched in more playoff series than any other Cub before him.  He was also regularly injured and won a meager 77 games in his 10 years there.  Not really worth honoring, even if we love him.
  • Mark Grace - The Mr. Cub of the 1990's.  Aren't you sick of seeing mediocre middle infielders wear his #17?
  • Rick Sutcliffe - a borderline pick.  He was a Cub for 8 seasons, 2 of which he spent mostly injured.  But he also won the Cy Young, was a runner up another year for a last-place team, and definitively led the team until his last game pitched.  And consider this factoid - despite his injuries, despite his two fewer seasons, Sutcliffe won 5 more games than Wood.  Is that enough to honor him?  Maybe not.  But his name should be considered.
  • The Golden Age Cubs.  It'll never happen, but why the heck haven't the Cubs retired jerseys for Phil Cavarretta (a Cub for 20 years), Stan Hack (a Cub of 16 seasons), Andy Pafko (9 years a Cub), Gabby Hartnett (a 19-season Hall of Famer), Billy Herman (11 years a Cub, and a Hall of Famer), Charlie Grimm (12 years with the Cubs), Hack Wilson (a Hall of Famer based solely on his six years of greatness in Chicago), or Charlie Root (200 wins as a Cub)? 

Maybe the Cubs are holding off for World Championships.  Maybe it's good that they are so selective in which numbers they retire.  Or maybe they could just break down and show some respect for their players.

I dunno.  Perhaps an online sportsbook like Sports Betting World should set up bets as to what the Cubs will do with Dawson and with other greats.  But based on past actions, and in all cases, it's probably safe to say that they won't do the right thing.  You can bet on that one for sure.

And Montreal is ... uh, overjoyed?

Not too surprisingly, the Hall of Fame has dropped the ball on the hat Andre Dawson will be wearing when he's inducted this summer. 

Although the Hawk spent the majority of his career in Montreal, it isn't really debatable as to what city he had his greatest impact in -- Chicago.  But ignoring all of that, ignoring that Dawson wouldn't have become a Hall of Famer had it not been for his time in a Cubs uniform, the simple facts are these:

The city of Montreal does not care about the Expos.  The former Expos organization -- now the Nationals -- does not care about the guys who played for the Expos.  Andre Dawson wants to be a Cub in the Hall of Fame.  The City of Chicago loves him, honors him, and would probably even obey him if he started throwing out the occasional decree.  The Cubs organization recognizes him as being one of the most identifiable players to wear the Big Red C in the past quarter century or more. 

The Hall of Fame, meanwhile, is supposed to be an organization that does not focus solely on the statistics.  Dawson's hard numbers are evidence that he could be recognized for his service as an Expo, but his character was best displayed in his time with the Cubs, and his impact was most seen during those six seasons in Chicago.  So why would the Hall essentially overlook those facts to honor an organization that doesn't deserve it against the wishes of the player being honored as well as the wishes of just about every person who has a passionate opinion on the subject?

That's a question I'll be asking often for the next little while.  Sadly, an easy answer doesn't appear to be evident.  Oh well.  But hey -- the Expos uniform sure looks cool, eh?

The Hat on the Hawk

(Editor's note: in case you missed it, we ran A Tale of Two Hitters on Friday night.  If you read only one GROTA article that I've written, ever, it should be that one.  Go read it if you haven't)

By now, we've probably all heard the big debate -- should Andre Dawson enter the Hall of Fame as an Expo or a Cub?  For Cub fans it's a particularly interesting point -- obviously we love Dawson and want to see him in a Cubs hat, even if Chicago isn't the "deserving" team.  Compounded on that is the recent story that the Cubs would retire Dawson's number were he to be inducted as a Cub -- compared in stark contrast with the former Expos organization, who unretired his jersey when they moved to Washington.  Ignoring personal feelings and biases, there are points to consider on both sides.

  • Dawson spent a decade in Montreal, where he played in 1,443 games.  He collected 1,575 of his 2,774 career hits as an Expo, 225 of his 438 homeruns, 838 of his 1,591 RBI, and 253 of his 314 career steals.  He won 6 of his 8 Gold Gloves in the Montreal outfield, and 3 of his 4 Silver Sluggers. 
  • Dawson's best season was with the Cubs, in 1987, when he slugged 49 homeruns and drove in 137 RBI.  In fact, he hit 174 homeruns as a Cub -- that's 51 less than his Montreal production in 2,366 fewer at bats.  Dawson had a higher OPS as a Cub (despite not arriving there until after his physical prime) and he was a 5 time All Star (compared to only 3 trips to the All Star Game as an Expo). 
  • Dawson says he wants to go in as a Cub.  He says Chicago is responsible for his career's resurgence and he attributes Cub fans for their support as the motivation for him to keep playing on disintegrating knees. 

Still, despite the Hawk's desires, it seems to be a no-brainer that he should be an Expo.  When the Hall of Fame puts a hat on a player, it tends to be the hat he wore the most in his career.  But there are a few other compelling reasons as to why he should wear the Big Red C.

On top of Dawson's own desire to go in as a Cub -- which should carry a lot of weight -- the Montreal organization has essentially rejected him.  The Nationals do not really acknowledge their pre-existence as the Expos.  As mentioned earlier, they unretired Dawson's jersey and do not have any days in which they honor their former Expos.

In the city of Montreal, they do not have any Veterans Days.  They don't celebrate the Expos.  The fans are ambivalent-at-best.  In other words, it would mean nothing to them if the Hall of Fame enshrined the Hawk with the Curvy Red E.   

In Chicago, Dawson remains worshiped, loved, and cherished.  In the years that he's been gone, right field has been patrolled by a 600-homerun-hitting monster, an Asian Sensation, a rage-filled douchebag, and an assortment of cast-offs.  None have had the staying power of the Hawk.  It would mean everything to the Cub fans and the Chicago organization if the Hall of Fame put that Red C on his plaque. 

In other words, while enshrining Dawson as an Expo would be historically accurate -- yes, he spent more years there and accumulated many of his accomplishments -- it wouldn't mean anything to anybody.  It would pay backhanded tribute to an organization that did not deserve it while ignoring the desires of the player being honored. 

Besides -- and this is also important -- if Dawson hadn't come to Chicago, he wouldn't have become a Hall of Famer.  It's simple and it's true.  Look at the numbers from his previous three seasons before coming to Chicago: 407 games played, a .262 AVG, 60 homeruns, 255 RBI, these are not the numbers of a Hall of Famer in the prime of his career, and yet they were exactly that.  When Dawson came to Chicago, he arrived as a player on the decline looking for a few more years before calling it a day on his career.  When he departed Chicago six years later, he left as a future Hall of Famer.

Therefore, without bias, Dawson should be a Cub in Cooperstown. 

A Tale of two hitters

A Tale of Two Hitters
As he stood before the throng of reporters and flashing cameras, Andre Dawson said something yesterday that I'd never known about him.  He spoke of his mother, who died in 2006.

From the article: She would have been 71, but she died in May 2006.

"I just wanted to thank her," Dawson said Thursday. "I went to her grave site. I prayed and thanked her for the job she did as a mother, father and big sister to me. She probably was my best friend."

Dawson was born in 1954 to Mattie Brown, then a single, 16-year-old girl who, along with his grandmother, went on to raise him into the person he is today.  Probably no baseball fan truly knows the player he's cheering (or booing), and I certainly wasn't aware of that part of the Hawk's story.  But what I do know about him is this: he was a cherished man in Chicago, a consummate professional admired by his teammates and worshiped by his fans.  It seems then that, like Dawson, we owe Mattie Brown a debt of gratitude.

Contrast that with Milton Bradley, who shares more than a few incidental similarities with Dawson.  According to Alan Schwartz of ESPN, Bradley was born in 1978 to Charlina Rector, who by then was already a single mother of four.  Bradley's father Milton Sr. -- whose name he passed onto his son while Rector was still unconscious from having given birth -- was a cocaine addict who'd left Rector several months previous.  Bradley's mother raised and tried to protect him from the world and from his abusive father, and like Dawson the circumstances of his birth directed him to become the person he is today.  Perhaps at home, away from the scrutinizing baseball fans who have heckled him, Bradley is a good husband and father -- i.e. everything his father wasn't -- but on the field he is an antagonistic, confrontational player despised by the fans and ambivalent to his teammates.

Dawson's grandmother -- who died before he reached the majors -- convinced him to go to university.  Bradley went into the draft straight from high school.  Both men were selected by the same team -- the Expos picked Dawson in the 11th round of the 1975 draft, Bradley was chosen in the 2nd round of the 1996 draft.  Dawson kept his nose down and excelled with a focus "that was never seen for somebody (his) age," (hence his nickname, "The Hawk"), Bradley grew to mistrust authority figures and was suspended multiple times for antics like poking umpires and spitting on them. 

By the time Dawson was 22 years old, he was playing in Montreal full-time.  He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1977, for having slugged 19 homeruns and batted .282 while stealing 21 bases.  Bradley struggled in his early years in Montreal, resulting in his first of many trades.  He was sent to the Indians at 23, and he didn't really start to light it up until 2003 when he batted .321 in 101 games played.

Eventually, the Hawk wore himself down in Montreal.  He spent a decade in the French-Canadian city, destroying his knees on the hard artificial turf even as he collected 6 Gold Gloves, 3 All Star appearances, and 2 runner-up MVP finishes.  Then, at the age of 32, in order to preserve his career, Dawson landed in Chicago for a pittance - a 1-year contract for $500,000.

Bradley, meanwhile, suffered a variety of leg injuries as well, although he more wore out his welcome than wore himself down.  After 2 full seasons in Cleveland -- which including incidents in which he was scolded by Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel for a lack of professionalism -- he finally exhausted the Indians' patience in the Spring Training of 2004 and was dealt to Los Angeles. 

He played there for two turbulent seasons -- which included even more tantrums and suspensions -- before being dealt to the Athletics.  Then Oakland designated him for assignment on July 21st, 2007, and the Padres picked him up.  With the Padres, Bradley provided a brief jolt to the San Diego offense before blowing out an ACL in the final week of the season while being restrained from confronting an umpire.  He then signed a one-year-deal with the Texas Rangers, where he reportedly informed the team late in the 2008 season that he'd be sitting out games so as to not risk injury and deflate his chances of receiving an impressive contract offer that winter.  Then, at the age of 31, Bradley landed in Chicago for an exorbitant sum of money -- $30 million for 3 years.

Dawson's time in Chicago was nothing short of glorious.  In his first year with the Cubs, the Hawk won the MVP award for a last place team while slugging 49 homeruns and driving in 137 RBI -- all for $500,000, a sum that would have insulted most stars.  He did it on two bad knees -- for which he'd have more than 20 operations on over the span of his life -- and without complaint.  As a result, the fans loved him.  They bowed to him in the outfield, chanting "Awesome Dawson" whenever he made an outstanding offensive or defensive play.  They wore his jersey.  They worshiped him.

At his Hall of Fame press conference, Dawson said this about Cub fans, and in light of recent seasons and recent accusations by various acquisitions, one can't help but wonder if his comments were directed at some people:

"I'll tell you, going to Wrigley Field, playing in the Friendly Confines amongst the Cubs fans, that was amazing in itself.


"That really rejuvenated my career, I think, and put me at a point in time where I was unsure about myself in the game, and how much longer I was going to stay in the game. The way the Cubs fan embraced me that first year pretty much propelled me on to win the National League MVP award and I owe that organization a lot for believing in me.


"They didn't really meet the demands initially, but I just felt that since I played in a media center, I played somewhere where the fans really took a hold and adored me, and made me really want to go out and want to be, not a crowd-pleaser, but to not embarrass them and just give it what they expect day-in and day-out."


Bradley's time in Chicago was nothing more than tumultuous.  He started out slowly and was booed for his effort -- or lack thereof.  In the first year of his contract (in which he'd signed with the expectation of delivering a run-producing bat in the middle of the order) Bradley batted .257 and hit 12 homeruns while driving in 40.  He described his experience with Cub fans as this:

"It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everyone is just bashing you. You go out there and play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity. ... And you understand why they haven't won in 100 years here, because it's negative. It's what it is." 

It turns out, according to Bradley, that Cub fans are not welcoming.  They are not the loving group of fans that cheered for Andre Dawson two decades earlier.  They are instead racist:

"I'm talking about hatred, period. I'm talking about when I go to eat at a restaurant, I have to listen to the waiters bad-mouthing me at another table, sitting in a restaurant, that's what I'm talking about -- everything."

As a result of a season of confrontations, harsh words, and disrespectful actions, Bradley was suspended on September 20th by Jim Hendry and dealt to the Mariners in the off-season.  He wasn't even able to last a single year with the Cubs.

It's doubtful that they've ever met, but I wonder what Andre Dawson and Milton Bradley would make of each other if they did.  Would Bradley see in Dawson a sell-out, a man who submerged his well-justified rage in order to get along with people who couldn't possibly understand the past which drives him?  Would Dawson see in Bradley a lost cause, a talented athlete who was never able to overcome his greater demons despite the support of a loving wife and the love of a doting mother? 

Whatever would happen, Cub fans have now experienced polar opposites.  We've had the talented hitting right fielder who played hurt and was a consummate professional, and we've seen the talented hitting right fielder who lived his life hurt and was consumed by his anger.  If possible, Bradley may have served in at least one positive role -- he's helped us remember and appreciate Dawson even more.

Mattie Brown has been dead for more than three years.  She never had the chance to see her son honored by the Hall of Fame, but she surely knew it was coming.  She raised her son right.  Charlina Rector probably did everything in her power to raise her son right, too.  Rather than condemning Rector for failing, let's instead praise Brown for succeeding.  It's never easy to be a single parent, whether you are 16 when your child is born as Brown was, or already a mother of four as Rector was.  For the unlikely success that he's had over the span of his life and baseball career, we should appreciate Dawson even more.  He was clearly deserving of our adoration, whether he was trying to be a crowd-pleaser or not.

The Hawk in the Hall

When I was a kid, pretty much my first memory of the Chicago Cubs was an old opening game montage in which Andre Dawson could be seen stepping up out of the dugout to acknowledge the cheers of the Wrigley faithful.  He quickly became my favorite player.

The why is simple -- although he could barely stand due to his wrecked knees, he was immensely talented.  He had a great arm in the outfield, his bat speed was phenomenal, and he put up MVPesque numbers despite being barely able to stand due to his wrecked knees.  Dawson was Awesome.  It was evident.

As the years went by, I collected dozens of his baseball cards.  As has been written here before, I was crushed when he left the Cubs 1 homer shy of 400 to play for the Red Sox.  And I was thrilled when, as a university freshman, I bought a Cubs jersey with the #8 on the back. 

Ever since he retired following the 1996, Cub fans like me have been stumping for his inclusion into the Hall of Fame.  We saw his 2,774 hits and said they were enough.  We noted his 503 doubles, 98 triples, 438 homeruns, 1,591 RBI, and 314 steals, his 8 trips to the All Star game, his 8 Gold Gloves, his Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards, and then we pointed out that he did it all on bad knees.  To have played so well for so long with such injuries shows that Dawson had heart. 

Back when he retired, 438 homeruns made him almost a no-brainer.  Then guys like McGwire, Sosa, Rodriguez and Bonds came onto the scene and suddenly 400 homeruns was nothing.  By the time he was eligible he was being judged against unfair, artificially-injected standards, and it hurt his chances.

About a year ago, having worn my #8 Cubs jersey regularly, I decided to show my love of Dawson some more this time by buying a #10 Expos uniform.  It's now appropriate, because he has finally received the votes he deserved and, chances are, he will be enshrined representing a team that no longer exists. 

After all, his 867 games as a Cub are dwarfed by his 1,443 games in Montreal.  And although he hit only 51 fewer homeruns in 2,366 fewer at bats, despite having the best years of his career in Chicago, Cooperstown will put an Expos cap on his plaque. 

I'm okay with that.  I'm just glad he's there.  And hopefully come this summer I will be in Cooperstown too, along with thousands of other Cub fans, bowing to Dawson again and chanting his name.

Cubs 101 - Pt 25 - The Hawk

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You might say it all began with a blank check.  Or possibly even slightly further than that, it all began with an all-advised attempt by big-league ownership to keep player salaries down.  Or even take it one step further, it all began by the cheap, chintzy management in Montreal, and their attempts to keep facility costs down by employing a rock hard, unrealistic, and eventually destructive artificial turf surface in their cavernous, oft-empty stadium.

Because, if all these otherwise unconnected factors were not in place, one of the bravest warriors in all of sports, Andre Dawson, would never have worn the pinstripes for us.

Over the years, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle became the prototypes for the do-it-all, 5-tool outfielder - Run, Hit, Hit for Power, Throw, and Catch.  Since then, dozens of "Next Willie Mayses" have come and gone, falling short of expectations due to a variety of circumstances, physical, mental, and sometimes it was something as innocuous as a carpet. 

The Montreal Expos eventually became a laughingstock franchise with a completely inglorious past, but they employed exemplary farm system directors and scouts who could beat the bushes to find developable talent.  The Expos outfield of the mid-70s would absolutely make the geeks at Baseball Prospectus quiver with pleasure.  First there was Warren Cromartie, who could hit, outrun anything and anybody.  There was Ellis Valentine, a true man who had one of the three best outfield arms I have ever seen (re; Roberto Clemente and Jesse Barfield).  And in center was a true five-tool player named Andre Dawson, he of the V-shaped torso and the perpetual scowl. 

Like most Florida boys, Andre played football in high school along with baseball, and came away with (by today's standards) minor knee damage.  Well, fine, it dropped him down to the 11th round of the draft, but he became a real steal when less than 2 years later, he was hitting over .250 in Montreal during a late season tryout.  He won 8 Gold Gloves in his time with Les Expos, was a multiple-All-Star, and was considered by many experts to be the best player in the game, even with the lack of publicity that goes along with being an Expo.

Enter the first bad guy in the Andre Dawson story: Olympic Stadium with its hard, crappy French AstroTurf, which battered his knees, robbing him of nearly all five of his baseball tools.  It first forced him to move out of center, then to consider abandoning the Expos all together after the 1986 season.  Now, one would think that teams would be crawling over one another for a man who was a lock to provide 25 homers, 100 RBIs, a .280 average, 20 steals, and to catch everything hit in his general direction.

Ah, but this was the lovely off-season of 1986-87, more commonly known in baseball lore as The Collusion Era.  For Dawson picked the absolute worst year to be a free agent.  Eventually, Dawson and his peers would end up with millions in settlement money from courts ruling against the owners for banding together and refusing to sign free agents, but at the time, this wasn't helping the Hawk any.  He considered all factors, and decided that it wouldn't be a bad thing to join a team that had a gaping right-field vacancy, that played on grass, in the sun, on TV every day of the season.  He wanted to be a Cub so bad that he famously handed Dallas Green a standard Players' Contract with the amount left blank.  Green scribbled in 500k for one year, with 250k incentives for making the All-Star team, making the All-Star starting lineup, and winning the National League MVP.

Even for 1987, that was a pittance for a guy who was worth maybe 20 wins a year, singlehandedly.  Here's the thing, though: between the time Andy Messersmith signed the first true Free-Agent contract in 1975, until Jim Hendry signed Alfonso Soriano in 2007, the Cubs only ended up with the "top free agent in the game" one other time, and that was only because he knees could not stand another year on AstroTurf, and because his agent handed us a blank check.  The Cubs simply did NOT end up signing guys like Dawson. 

Whether he was pissed off at the world for his lousy timing, or whether he was just happy to be out of Olympic Stadium, Andre Dawson put on a clinic the entire 1987 season, from Day 1 to Day 162, when he homered in his last at-bat in Wrigley.  I always compare the 1958 and 1959 Ernie Banks seasons with Dawson's 1987 and Derrek Lee's 2005 when I think about Cubs clean Offensive Excellence.  Banks won the MVP both years, Dawson won his, and Lee could have won his, finished third to Grampa Pujols (whose stats were identical to Lee's) and a swollen Andruw Jones and his 51 dodgy homers.  Lee was truly great in 2005, do you remember how much he carried us?  I would say Dawson's "carrying power" in 1987 was Lee's times three.

People who did not watch the Cubs every day in 1987 (re: the rest of baseball) always point at Dawson's MVP as one of the true misnomers in baseball, because the Cubs finished last that year.  Here's a couple of reasons why they can stick it up their ass: number one: the 1987 Cubs were probably one of the BEST last place teams in baseball history, winning 77 games, and being in first place at the end of May and in second at the end of June.  Number two, putting aside his 49 homers and 137 RBIs in an era where those stats were simply unheard of; watching the 1987 Cubs day in and day out, it seemed to me that every single game was a battle, with Andre Dawson at the point of the charge, and everyone else on the team (including Ryne Sandberg) falling in behind him.  It seemed that every one of the 49 homers and 137 RBIs were critical, he threw himself around the outfield, base-paths, and batters box with complete abandon, and played his game with (mostly) controlled ferocity.

Here's a thing: these days, it seems like the umpires have legislated away any kind of inside pitching; any kind of brush back, purpose pitch automatically brings at least a warning, sometimes an immediate ejection?  You have 1987 to thank - the last of the big purpose pitch seasons.  Dawson was a particular target, since he was pretty much wearing pitchers out all season long.  You probably have Dawson to thank, too, for the trend of batters going after pitchers who throw at them that was prevalent in the 90's and early part of this decade. 

Now, there are some of you who may hate pitcher Eric Show, and you may not even know WHY!  Well, on July 6th, 1987, the Cubs were still in the race, and they beat San Diego 7-0, thanks to a double and two 2-run homers from Dawson.  The next day, Eric Show was given a 1-0 lead (over Greg Maddux!) in the bottom of the first, which he promptly gave up, thanks to an Andre Dawson homer.  So the next time Dawson came up in the third, the sniveling little punk Show had a little present - a fastball right in the face!  A true act of cowardice, this triggered one of the great brawls in Cubs history, and perhaps all of baseball.

Thing is, the whole park went silent for about two seconds, like a great WHOOSH sucked everyone in the place into the same hole - OMG - THEY KILLED HAWK!!  THE BASTARDS!!  And Dawson had dropped violently and was lying in the dirt.

Then rose a cry of righteous anger, and the Cubs, led by Rick Sutcliffe, charged the mound and pummeled Show.  This, bizarrely, went on for several minutes while trainers tended to Andre near home plate.  They got Dawson to his feet about the time umpires were able to separate the two teams - and then Dawson charged Show, who was already bloodied, and wailed on Show himself.

Quite possibly the coolest thing I ever saw on a ball diamond.  Dawson was out a couple of days, but strangely enough, the team dropped out of contention pretty much from that day forward.  By the end of the year, the only reason to watch was to see if and how Dawson would win the game for us that day.  He did hit his homer on the last pitch he saw that year, the fans chanted M-V-P, and perhaps it was the 'blank check' story that helped the writers overlook the team's standings placement.

The next year he played nearly every day yet struggled mightily, and we were introduced to the term "bone rubbing on bone" when announcers home and away described his knees.  He was a part of the wacky 1989 team that won the East Division, but he did miss over 40 games to knee pain, and he was a complete non-factor (.105 average) in the NLCS.  Surgery that off-season (he had surgery EVERY off-season) seemed to help him the next two years, where he averaged 29 homers and 102 RBI.  His last season in Chicago was 1992, when he was 37, and the whole "bone-against-bone" thing because an issue again as he visibly struggled to stay in the lineup while playing right field, which in Wrigley Field is as difficult as position to play as exists in baseball, due to the close side wall, the sun in late afternoon, and the ridge in the infield that cut off full visibility from the outfield. 

He still managed to go .277/22/90 for a team that finished above .500, but do you recall that off-season?  Yep, that was the same one where our GM let reigning Cy Young Award winning Greg Maddux go to Atlanta...so what chance do you think a 38 year old outfielder with no knees had of getting a contract?  We will cover the human pecker track that is Larry Himes on another day, but Andre Dawson deserved to retire as a Cub, and we deserved to have him retire as a Cub.  All of us were cheated of that last chance, and to this day, Dawson has never really felt welcome back, even withstanding recent attempts by Cubs management to reach out to him. 

Now we know Dawson as "that guy who is getting only 65% of the votes for the Hall of Fame".  Maybe he'll make it, maybe not.  Signs say he will, someday, but if it weren't for his knees, and that damn Le Turf in Montreal, Andre Dawson would have been a first-ballot guy.  He doesn't have first-ballot joints, but he has a first-ballot heart, that's for sure.

Kurt Evans
The first Cub name I ever learned was Andre Dawson's.  I was exiting kindergarten the summer he came to the Cubs and my best friend was a huge Cub fan.  In fact, I still remember being over at Margeson's house, watching Andre Dawson step forward out of the dugout to wave after hitting one of his 49 homeruns in 1987.

I immediately began to mimic the Hawk's batting stance, to admire him for his perseverence from his "bone-on-bone" knee injuries, and to follow his stats religiously.  My favorite number became "8."  My favorite position, right field.  My favorite middle name, Nolan ... well, maybe I didn't go that far.  But I collected Dawson's cards, I perked up any time he stepped to the plate during a game, and I quickly discovered that he would be my all-time favorite player.

My best memories of 1989 -- Andre Dawson playing against the Dodgers, going 4 for 4 with 2 homeruns before disappearing from the scene for more than a month while battling his recurring knee problems. 

My second best memories of the Hawk -- discovering by proxy (thanks, Baseball Weekly) that Dawson hit grand slams against the Pirates two times in three days, despite the fact that the Cubs failed to win either of those games.  

When he left the Cubs after the '92 season, I was heartbroken.  How could they possibly have denied Andre Dawson the chance to hit his 400th career homerun in a Cubs uniform?  What were they thinking?   But if you were a fan of Cub players back then, the early 90's were rough on you because the Hawk was just one part of an exodus of tears. 

Sometime probably during the '99 season, I made an order from Wrigleyville Sports for a Dawson jersey.  It was the third I owned -- the first two were Sosa and Banks, bought during the '98 palyoffs -- and I cannot describe how excited I was when it arrived in the mail.  It had been half a decade since he left, I'd only been a kid when he exited, and yet I was giddy to see the number  8 with his name hanging over it. 

It has since become one of my pet peeves that most #8 Cubs are backup catchers or sloppy middle infielders.  None have lived up to the player who made that jersey number famous in the eyes of this man when he was just a boy.  As I've grown up, I've come to accept that the Cubs will never retire it in Dawson's honor and, should he make it to the Hall of Fame, he will likely go wearing an Expos cap.  (Not that it's a problem, I bought my second Dawson jersey -- an Expos #10 -- a few months ago.  I'm covered.)  But regardless of what hat the Hall makes him wear, like Sutcliffe before him, Dawson is a Cub.  From the highs of the 49 homerun season to the lows of the '89 struggles, Andre Dawson belongs to Chicago and Chicago belongs to him.  He is a Cub and he always will be.

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