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07/24/10 1:05 PM ET

'Hawk' recalls ugly beaning incident

Benches cleared after Dawson hit in face by Padres' Show

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Twenty-three years later, Andre Dawson still believes that Eric Show was trying to hit him in a game at Wrigley Field between the Padres and Cubs that would be long forgotten had it not been for the unfortunate bean ball incident.

Dawson, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, was on his way to an MVP season in 1987, his first with the Cubs. He had hit a trio of homers against Padres pitchers over the course of two games, including his 24th of 49 that season off Show in the first inning of a 7-5 Cubs victory on July 7.

In the third, Paul Noce had just hit another homer, bringing up "The Hawk," who loomed over the plate. Show came up and in, hitting the righty-swinging Dawson in the head. The resulting melee and retaliations ultimately led to seven ejections. Dawson went to the hospital and needed 24 stitches to close the wound in his lip and cheek. To this day, Dawson calls it a "purpose pitch."

"I'm sorry to say I think that was a reaction to some comments [then Padres manager] Larry Bowa had made in the papers the day before," Dawson said. "I had six homers off Padres pitchers, and it wasn't even the All-Star break yet. I had hit a home run off Show in San Diego to knock him out of a game. This was a guy who had pretty much had his way with me until I figured him out.

"Bowa said they needed to back me off the plate. I thought it was a purpose pitch because Show was a sinkerball pitcher who threw the ball down in the strike zone. That ball found its way up around the head."

When it did, Dawson fell to the ground face first in a prone position, bleeding profusely. As he did so, Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe made a run at the mound to get to Show, who died in 1994 of a drug overdose. Just as plate umpire Charlie Williams restored order, Dawson rose from the dirt and made his own rush at Show as fighting resumed in front of the Padres' dugout.

"I tried to remain calm, but I did what I did because I heard a comment about what my face looked like," Dawson said. "They tried to keep me down, but I got super-human strength at that point from somewhere. The only thought in my head at that moment was that I had to find him."

Show was warned at the time, but left the game with a foot injury. An inning later, Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux hit Padres catcher Benito Santiago and was kicked out of the game, along with Cubs manager Gene Michael. Dawson and Sutcliffe were also ejected.

On Sunday, Dawson will join two other Hall of Famers who were on the field that day -- his own teammate, second baseman Ryne Sandberg, and Padres right fielder Tony Gwynn. Maddux, a 355-game winner, is also a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer. The right-hander will be eligible in 2014.

Gwynn and Sandberg are both in town for the festivities this weekend.

Gwynn recalled the incident as "ugly," and Sandberg said "it was chaos at Wrigley Field."

"He was a fan favorite," said Sandberg, a Triple-A manager in the Cubs organization these days and a candidate for the big-league job next season. "He was going on to an MVP season. He had hit some home runs already. It was an unfortunate pitch and ill-timed. It was not a good scene."

"It was an ugly day," Gwynn said. "It wasn't pretty. He got hit and both benches emptied. Andre, to me, was the most dominant guy in the Major Leagues at that point. I had blood on my uniform from trying to break up guys. It wasn't fun."

Show always maintained that he wasn't trying to hit Dawson that day and Bowa, now the third-base coach with the Dodgers, backed him up. Show left the ballpark before the end of the game for his own safety and issued a written statement apologizing to Dawson and the Cubs fans.

"It was unfortunate, and I'm sure I'll regret it the rest of my life," he said.

Dawson says now that Show then followed that with a long apologetic letter.

Afterward, columnist Ron Rapoport of the Chicago Sun-Times called Show a "mediocre pitcher and a worse liar." Show responded by saying Rapoport was an "amoeba-brained so-called writer."

Bowa, who was dismissed as Padres manager less than a year later, agreed that Show was simply trying to back Dawson off the plate. But that was the extent of it.

"I never told anyone to hit anyone," Bowa said.

Gwynn concurred.

"I never believed he was trying to hit him," he said. "It just didn't look good. Andre had just hit a home run. The next time up you've got to get in on him and he was hit right in the face."

Because of his style of leaning so far over the plate, Dawson was hit 111 times during his 21-year career, tied for 52nd on the all-time list. But this was certainly the most serious, if not long-lasting.

"Three days later I was fine," the Hawk said. "I was back out on the field."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.