A final landing for the ‘Hawk’

By Carrie Muskat
Updated: August 30, 2010

CHICAGO — Andre Dawson remembers getting beer tossed on him at Wrigley Field when he was an opposing player with the Montreal Expos. On Monday, the Cubs fans cheered him.

“This was my home,” Dawson said of Wrigley.

Dawson, inducted into the Hall of Fame in July, was honored in pregame ceremonies at Wrigley Field. The outfielder known as “The Hawk” was given a No. 8 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard as well as a copy of Mayor Richard Daley’s proclamation that Monday, Aug. 30, is Andre Dawson Day in Chicago.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said he and his family used to live behind the right-field bleachers and came to games to cheer Dawson when he played for the team from 1987-92. Dawson said Cubs fans convinced him to keep playing.

“I’ve addressed these fans on numerous occasions over the years, and they, I think, were the ones who made the difference,” Dawson said. “I wouldn’t say the organization, but the fans — I was driven off their energy.

“I was looking at leaving the game because of the history of the knee problems,” he said. “[The fans] fueled me to the point where the game was fun. I wanted to go out there and make the most of what my blessing and my ability was. Had it been in another city, it probably would’ve been a lot more difficult.”

Does he think there will ever be another player who will offer a team a blank contract, as Dawson did to the Cubs in 1987?

“No, absolutely not,” said Dawson, who needed to get out of Montreal and the artificial turf because of the strain it put on his knees.

He felt the Expos “slapped him in the face” when their best offer was a $200,000 cut in pay after 10 seasons. When the Cubs offered $500,000, he knew it was something they expected him to turn down. But he didn’t.

“They made the mistake of making me an offer,” Dawson said of the Cubs, “because I was going to stand up to it. If [general manager Dallas Green] had put $100,000 in, I would’ve played that year for $100,000, because it was a situation where I wanted the game to be fun for me again. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the game going back on those terms.”

The Cubs were not retiring Dawson’s No. 8, which manager Mike Quade now wears.”I guess I would feel like I finally arrived, because for me, this was home,” Dawson said if the team reversed its decision.

“Retiring my number, it’s an honor for me to be able to experience that and to see it happen because of what this organization represents and the following it has around the country and in the world.”

One thing that has changed is that his teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg, is now managing at Triple-A Iowa and being considered to take over the big league club.

“I’m still amazed that he wants to do it at this level,” Dawson said of Sandberg. “It’s different at the Minor League level, when you’re doing more evaluating and working with the kids and trying to get them to the next level. Here, it’s egos and attitudes and business and you’re under the microscope more.

“Ryno, I never envisioned that as a player,” Dawson said. “He was more laid back and quiet. Maybe there’s a different animal now. I wish him well. I think he’d do a good job at it. He’s respected in that manner.”

“He played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He knows how to win the respect of his peers and individuals — he’d be over and above. I think he’d do real well at it.

“I think he’ll groom himself into an individual who will do a better than average job at it.”

Dawson entered Wrigley Field from the right-field corner to a standing ovation, then spoke briefly to the fans.

It’s been hectic since the induction ceremony on July 25 at Cooperstown, with all the appearances across the country that he’s had to make.

“I’m probably living the dream right now,” Dawson said, “but I’m also trying to enjoy it.”