One of the themes running through the “Don’t Blame Steve” song and video is admiration for Andre Dawson (or “Hawk Dawson” as he’s referred to in the video). Dawson only played six seasons in right field at Wrigley Field, or roughly half as long as Sammy Sosa’s tenure there. But believe me when I say that Sosa never would have anything close to the outpouring of love that Dawson received in the picture above.
I first saw Andre Dawson play near the beginning of the 1987 season, shortly after his escape from Montreal. After 11 seasons playing on artificial turf, he left and signed for a minimal amount to play on grass and in sunshine. The Cubs got a bargain as Dawson turned in an MVP season, while playing for a last place team. But he wanted to be in Chicago, and the fans picked up on that right away.
When Andre Dawson would play catch in the outfield between innings, every throw was a laser beam. I’ve been told that Dwight Evans, who had a legendary throwing arm, was the same way in Boston. I would watch Dawson throw and tell myself that if his throws are like that during warmups, what would a throw look like when it counts? I’m not sure that I ever found out, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
I never made it to the bleachers at Wrigley as much as I wanted to in college, but I always planned my spring schedule with baseball in mind, more so than academics. And the right field bleachers were always the place to be. There were more seats there than in left field, but right field was also where the Hawk played. To sit somewhere else would have felt disrespectful.
The salaam, where fans bow with both arms extended as a sign of reverence or respect, originated with Cubs fans and Andre Dawson. It was extended to Sammy Sosa in the late 1990s, but I for one wasn’t comfortable with that. That was a Dawson thing, and Sosa seemed to be usurping it on some level. But the legend of Sammy and the Hop washed those misgivings away, unfortunately.
Dawson left Chicago just before the the 1993 season. He played two seasons in Boston, and then two years with his hometown Florida Marlins. It was as a Marlin that he retired after the 1996 season. He played in only three complete games that season, all of them in April, and his role was essentially that of a late-inning pinch hitter when the Marlins came to Wrigley in late September of that year.
I wasn’t going to miss that day for anything. I somehow found myself in Wrigleyville, instead of at work, and made my way to the bleachers in right field. I’m near the top of the picture, just to the left of the headless bikini top. This picture appears in the book Baseball as America. I whole-heartedly joined in the love and respect that was rained down on the Hawk that day. I heard the speech that he gave that day, and the one he gave at Cooperstown upon his Hall of Fame induction in 2010 (although sadly not in person that time), and I can confidently state there hasn’t been a player since then that I’ve admired so much.
The surprise for me isn’t that I’m writing about Andre Dawson now, but that I’ve already written so much in this space without discussing him. Consider that oversight to be corrected.