A Tip of the Cap to Dawson

By Chris Rewers on Thursday, July 22, 2010

Andre Dawson's Hall of Fame plaque will feature his likeness sporting a Montreal Expos cap, but the Hawk will always be fondly remembered by Cubs fans for the thrills he provided during his fabulous 1987 MVP season.

And according to the Tribune's Fred Mitchell and David Kaplan, the feelings Dawson has for Cubs fans are mutual. He is expected to acknowledge his time on the North Side during his Hall of Fame induction speech on Sunday.

"I will acknowledge the presence of the Cubs fans, what they meant to me and my family during my playing days there," Dawson told Mitchell and Kaplan. "I will make sure that it's known by the Cub fans just the huge impact that they had on my career."

Dawson, particularly earlier in his career before his knees began to ache from the pounding they took from Olympic Stadium's artificial turf, was a classic five-tool player who could hit for average, hit for power, run like the wind, exhibit range, and possess a canon of a throwing arm.

But Dawson, like so many of the great ones, did not rely on his natural abilities alone. He worked his tail off. He did all he could do to prepare himself, and then did that little bit extra.

During Thursday's Nationals-Reds telecast on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, analyst Rob Dibble recalled talking to Dawson about his work ethic. Dawson told Dibble that he put just as much effort into maintaining his baserunning and fielding skills as he put into his hitting.

He also told Dibble that whenever he went into a slump, his bat speed was usually the cause. To remedy the problem, Dawson would set a pitching machine at fastball mode and move halfway up from the batter's box to take his hacks. Incredible. Dawson would attempt to hit fastballs from a distance of about 30 feet!

What a contrast that is to so many talented players whose careers plateaued because they refused to pay the price that is required for greatness.

In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (The Free Press, 2001), James recalls watching an interview with St. Louis shortstop Garry Templeton in 1978.

Templeton - who was a decent hitter and a good fielder playing in his third major league season - was asked what he was going to do to improve his game and fulfill his promise.

Templeton said that there was nothing for him to do. He just had to wait for it to happen. Templeton played 16 years in the major leagues, but will never be mentioned as one of the all-time greats.

To celebrate Dawson's induction into the Cooperstown, N.Y. shrine, Comcast SportsNet will reair on Friday (7 p.m. and 1 a.m.) Dawson's three-home run performance against the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 1, 1987. The WGN telecast will feature Harry Caray handling the play-by-play duties along with color analyst Steve Stone.

1 Comments

They called Andre "Awesome", because it rhymed with Dawson. Even if his name was Schwartz, he still would be awesome! I was lucky to see him play in person for every home game he was a Cub, and also for many games he played against the Cubs, when he was an Expo. I've been a Cub fan since '45, and had a lot of Cub heroes , including Nicholson, Pafko, Sauer, Banks, Williams... but my favorite of all time is Andre. He was always a great sportsman on and off the diamond. A real class act.

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