By Ross Forman
Andre Dawson was scheduled to wake up at 4:30 a.m. last Nov. 3, so he could make it to the airport for a 6 a.m. flight. But the night before was Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, with the Cleveland Indians playing host to the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field.
There was no way Dawson would miss the deciding game, even with extra innings and a rain delay.
So he only slept two hours that night.
Dawson was glued to his TV, watching and analyzing every hit, run, managerial move, and more.
“Everyone who has ever put on that Cubs uniform was waiting for that moment,” said Dawson, who played on Chicago’s North Side from 1987-1992, highlighted by a National League MVP season for the Cubs in 1987. “It appeared as though it might not happen.”
Cleveland had tied the game in the ninth inning before the Cubs ultimately won, 8-7, in 10 innings.
“They had a phenomenal year; it was very exciting to watch the (2016) Cubs. They had a manager who just pushed all of the right buttons. They accomplished something that a lot of people had been waiting their whole life to see.”
Dawson watched every moment of every inning of the Cubs’ 2016 playoff run.
Dawson spent 21-years in the majors, playing for four teams: Montreal Expos (1976–1986), Chicago Cubs (1987–1992), Boston Red Sox (1993-1994), and Florida Marlins (1995-1996). He was an 8-time National League All-Star and the NL Rookie of the Year in 1977.
His MVP campaign featured a league-leading 49 homers and 137 RBI.
Dawson batted .300 five times, drove in 100 runs four times, and had 13 seasons of at least 20 home runs. He also stole 30 bases three times.
He is one of eight MLB players with at least 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases during their career.
Dawson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.
“Things are going well; I’m enjoying retirement (from playing), though I’m still (working) in baseball,” in the Marlins organization, said Dawson, who is now 63.
During his career Dawson was a .279 lifetime hitter with 438 career home runs and 1,591 RBI. He also was an 8-time Gold Glove and 4-time Silver Slugger Award-winner.
He certainly has a variety of inscriptions that he can add to his distinctive autograph.
And Dawson will be back in Chicago on Thursday, July 27, signing autographs at the 38th annual National Sports Collectors Convention, held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in suburban Rosemont.
The five-day National runs July 26-30, with such star signers in the Tristar Autograph Pavilion as Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Bench, Steve Carlton, Reggie Jackson, Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith, Dick Butkus, Lou Holtz, Jim Kelly, Steve Largent, Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, Bobby Hull, Brett Hull, Guy LaFleur, Mike Tyson, Bobby Knight, Julius Erving, Kevin McHale, Bill Goldberg, Lance Armstrong and even Henry Winkler.
“I’ve done several shows for Tristar Productions in the past, and I always get excited for the shows, especially if they are in (a city) where I haven’t been in a while,” Dawson said. “Getting the chance to meet the fans, mingle with them and the (fellow) signers; that’s something I enjoy.
“To me, the whole collecting (industry), the memorabilia … it’s gotten a lot crazier over the years. But that’s what fans do; they have the players and teams that they like, admire, enjoy—and that’s who or what they often collect.”
Dawson said he wasn’t much of a collector himself until he joined the Cubs. He then starting collecting autographed memorabilia of players who he looked up to. He scored signed bats, balls, and more.
When asked who’s the one autograph he’d like to add to his collection, Dawson didn’t hesitate; he went straight for one of the biggest sporting icons ever: Babe Ruth.
He already has autographs from Roberto Clemente, Roger Maris and Jackie Robinson.
Dawson has collected autographs from “guys who really, really made an impact on the game.”
Dawson made his major league debut on Sept. 11, 1976, for the Expos. His last game was 20 years later, almost to the day, with the Marlins.
He was known as The Hawk, then and still now.
“It was always a dream of mine to make it to the majors, and I did everything I could to reach the major leagues. My goal ultimately was to play 15 years. After 15 years, I still found myself in the game,” he said. “I always wanted to be in a position to retire when I wanted to, so they didn’t have to take the jersey away from me.
“Being able to achieve the longevity that I did was and is something I’m very proud of.”
Dawson said getting the call to the Hall brought “honor, relief and joy.” He added that getting inducted into the Hall of Fame was the result of, “a lot of long years of pain, suffering to a degree, and hard work.”
Dawson admitted that his preference was to be inducted into the Hall wearing a Cubs jersey, “because of the fans,” he said. But he went in wearing Montreal Expos attire.
“The Cubs’ fans really, really inspired me, and embraced me since day one,” Dawson said. “They were always supportive of me … the Cubs fans are the greatest fans in baseball.”
So Andre, will the Cubs come alive in the second half of the 2017 season and repeat?
“Repeating is such a difficult task, for any team, in any sport,” Dawson said. “The Cubs definitely have a target on them this season, but all of the pieces are still in place. It’s just a matter of how hungry the team is, and if they stay healthy.”
Dawson said Washington and Los Angeles could be National League challengers to the Cubs this season. In the American League, Boston and Houston look primed for a run into late-October, maybe even early-November, like the Cubs last season.
Dawson was watching last season and he’ll be glued to the Fall Classic this year, too.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.