01/03/2003 8:35 PM ET
Dawson let his bat do the talking
CHICAGO -- Shawon Dunston is one loud, babbling dude. When Dunston played shortstop for the Cubs, you always knew where he was in the tiny Wrigley Field clubhouse. You just had to listen.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Yet one of the players Dunston admires most was also one of the quietest in the game, Andre Dawson.
"They say I kept him young," Dunston said of Dawson, who was his teammate with the Cubs from 1987-92.
Dawson's knees required intensive treatment and his teammates knew the lengthy process the right fielder went through before and after every game so he could play every day. In "Banks to Sandberg to Grace," Dunston recalls a Cubs game which exemplified all that Dawson embodies.
"I remember one day we were playing against the Astros," Dunston said, "and we had a 10-run lead and (Dawson) dove for a ball (in the outfield) and I panicked. I said, 'Please Andre, don't dive.'"
"He said, 'You've got to play the game right. You don't want me to play, take me out,'" Dunston said. "I took that to heart. He never complained. He respected the game."
Anyone who was Dawson's teammate during his 21 seasons respected the man known as "Hawk," too. He'll know soon whether he'll join baseball's most respected shrine, the Hall of Fame, in a few days. The voting results are to be announced Jan. 7.
This is Dawson's second year on the Hall of Fame ballot. He received 214 votes (45.3 percent) in 2002. A player must receive 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America to gain entry to Cooperstown.
Ozzie Smith was the only player elected into the Hall of Fame last year. Ironically, Dawson had edged Smith in the National League MVP voting in 1987, 269-193, to become the first player to win the award playing for a last-place team.
Right field bleacher fans bowed to Dawson before Sammy Sosa came onto the scene. Dawson had finished second twice in the MVP voting in 1981 and '83, but in 1987 claimed the award after batting .287 with a league-leading 49 homers and 137 RBIs.
That year, Dawson was the free agent nobody wanted. Eager to get off Montreal's artificial turf because of his sore knees, he offered a blank check contract to the Cubs in '87 and they finally accepted, signing him for $500,000. Such a deal. Eleven Cub players on the '87 roster received larger base salaries than Dawson did.
"There was some doubt (I would win MVP) because the ballclub finished in last place and there had never been a player voted from a last-place team," Dawson said at the time. "I just tried to be realistic about it and never went overboard with my hopes."
Dawson and his wife Vanessa flew to Chicago for a news conference on the date the MVP award was announced but didn't know he had won until 30 minutes before it was made public.
Dawson, 48, now is back with the Florida Marlins as a special assistant to the president. He ended his career there in 1995-96. The right fielder played for Montreal (1976-86), the Chicago Cubs (1987-92) and Boston (1993-94) as well.
In 21 seasons, he compiled a .279 average with 438 home runs and 1,591 RBIs. An eight-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, he is the only player in Major League history to reach double digits in home runs and stolen bases for 12 consecutive seasons.
And if he makes it to Cooperstown this year, that loud noise you hear may be from Dawson himself.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.