The National Baseball Hall of Fame is planning to evaluate Andre Dawson’s request to change the cap on his Cooperstown plaque from the Montreal Expos to the Chicago Cubs. Dawson has long believed that Wrigley Field and the bright spotlight around the Cubs helped energize and extend his legendary career.
That initial choice of the Expos logo was made without Dawson’s approval after the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted for his induction as part of the Hall of Fame’s 2010 class. Dawson recently sent a letter to Jane Forbes Clark, the leader of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors, asking for a review of his plaque’s design, according to the Chicago Tribune. Dawson called it an opportunity to “right a wrong.”
The Hall of Fame intends to talk with Dawson once the organization actually receives his proposal, a Cooperstown official said Tuesday, and gets the chance to fully see what it entails.
“My preference all along was as a Cub,” Dawson told Tribune columnist Paul Sullivan. “I had my reasons, and I think that should’ve been something we sat down and discussed.
“It’s hard for stuff to bother me, to a degree. But this has toyed with me over the years for the simple reason that I was approached with the (announcement) that was going to be released to the press that I was going to wear an Expos emblem. I didn’t agree with it at the time. But for me, getting into the Hall was the most important thing.
“Over time, I’ve thought about it more and came to the (conclusion) I should have had some say-so.”
Dawson, who was drafted by the Expos out of Florida A&M University in 1975, spent the first 11 seasons of his 21-year major-league career with Montreal. The artificial turf at Olympic Stadium battered his body — 12 reported knee surgeries bolstered his reputation as a tough player — and the Expos have been inoperative since the franchise relocated after the 2004 season and rebranded as the Washington Nationals.
Dawson famously offered the Cubs a “blank contract” during spring training in 1987, telling the team to fill in his salary. This period of labor relations was marked by collusion among Major League Baseball’s owners. For $500,000 guaranteed plus performance bonuses, Dawson produced 49 home runs and 137 RBIs for a last-place team during that prove-it season, becoming the 1987 National League MVP.
That momentum carried into the next stage of Dawson’s career as an enormously popular figure in Wrigleyville. He performed at a high level for the Cubs into his late 30s, spent two seasons with the Boston Red Sox and kept playing for the Florida Marlins beyond his 42nd birthday.
Disagreements are part of what makes the Hall of Fame a more interesting institution. The debates over who should be in and who should be left out — a topic complicated by the steroid era — are part of the offseason conversation around the baseball industry. Greg Maddux felt more comfortable with no logo on the hat on his Cooperstown plaque because the Cubs and Atlanta Braves were both so important to his legacy as one of the best pitchers ever.
Dawson isn’t conflicted anymore, and he won’t be worried about any remaining Expos fans out there. His comments to the Chicago Tribune seemed to surprise the Hall of Fame, which is preparing for announcements next week around its contemporary era committee — Lou Piniella, Jim Leyland, Cito Gaston and Davey Johnson are among the candidates for induction — and the Ford C. Frick Award that annually honors an outstanding baseball broadcaster.
“I realize there will probably be some backlash, but at this point I’m 70 years old,” Dawson told Sullivan. “Do you think I really care?”
(Photo: Liv Lyons / MLB Photos via Getty Images)