Last week Wednesday was a banner day in sports for VJJ. The day started off with my favorite baseball player of all time, Andre Dawson, being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As if the day couldn’t get any better, Marquette then beats #12 Georgetown, Wisconsin loses to Michigan State, and Tom Crean’s “It’s Indiana, It’s Indiana” team gets their doors blown off. Just really a great day. The “Hawk” being elected was enough to make it a great day and it really got me thinking about my time as a youth with the game of baseball.
Most sensible people would probably say, “VJJ, you are a Brewers fan and during most of your formative baseball fandom years, Dawson played for the hated Chicago Cubs. What’s up?” That is a legitimate and good question. Dawson did play for the Cubs during that time and I was actually a Cubs fan for quite a long time. It was a dark and terrible time of my life. 1989 was pretty bitching, but otherwise, it sucked balls. I recently tried to figure out why I was a Cubs fan and it boils down to one person. My Aunt (in order to protect her identity and Alzheimer’s) Mulva. She was a huge Cubs fan. She was also pretty influential on me as a kid, so I shaped some of my sport’s allegiances based on hers (We won’t get into my love of the Dolphins here. That is an oddball one).
So, for most of the 80’s and 90’s, I was a very sad little boy cheering for a doomed franchise. I loved players like Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston, and of course Andre Dawson. Dawson was by far my favorite player. I would like to think that part of it comes from the fact that he played for the Expos for so many years and we all know that I have a love for Canadians. I also liked the Expos to a certain extent. Not sure if it was the hours that I spent trying to figure why the had an “elb” on their hats, (yeah, I know it was an “M”) or the fact that Olympic Stadium and all it’s crappiness amused me. Anyway, back to the story, I watched every Cubs game I could on WGN. I even remember begging my mom to let me stay up late and watch games. She should have slapped some sense into me then. Now don’t get me wrong, I also liked the Brewers. It seemed kosher at the time since they were in the AL and the Cubs were in the NL. I had my AL team and my NL team. I completely changed my thoughts once the Brewers went NL and I now hate the Cubs more than any other team (outside of the Badgers) in sports. I think I make an excellent hater since I am very familiar with the franchise and was a fan for so long.
Back to my love for Dawson. I’m not sure why the free-swinging Dawson really stuck out to me, but he did. I imitated his batting stance, I collected his baseball cards, I bought t-shirts with his image on it. I tried to learn everything I could about this player. His batting stance was actually pretty successful for me as a lad. I credit my little league homers to that batting stance. I will also try and attribute it to my less than perfect knees(I know it was the turf ). I really wish I could have imitated his jheri curl, but as a white kid from northeastern Wisconsin, I barely knew what that was let alone have the kind of hair to do it. I did think that Soul Glo had something to do with it.
When Dawson came up on the ballot for the first time, I was excited. I had never thought of him as being someone that would make the hall, but he does have some impressive numbers. There are his 8 All-Star game appearances and Gold Glove awards. Ranking 25th all time in total bases, 36th in home runs, and 24th in extra base hits. Sure he did make a lot of outs and ranks 22nd all time in that category, but that will happen when you go up there looking to hit the ball. He was also the Rookie of the Year in 1977 and the NL MVP in 1987 where the Hawk crushed 49 homers and drove in 137 for a horrible Cubs team. An impressive number that several point to is his membership in the 400 – 300 club. With 438 career homers and 314 career stolen bases, he joins Barry Bonds and Willie Mays as the only players to accomplish such a feat. Take Bonds for what it is worth, but you can’t go wrong when being compared or mentioned with Mays. With baseball being such a numbers driven game, he does have some impressive digits. Compare his OBP, OPS, BA and whatever else you want to Geoff Jenkins, Bill Hall, Wes Helms or whoever else you want to throw in there, but I will always argue that he should be in the Hall.
It’s funny how things seem skewed when you are a kid. When you try to put something into perspective as an adult that you believed as a kid, you often realize just how ridiculous you were as a child. For me, my love of American Gladiators (seriously watch that show now and forget how much you loved it as a kid and tell me it isn’t bad), the music of C & C Music Factory (although Gonna Make You Sweat does still bring a smile to my face), and chocolate just seem like a ridiculous thing I was enjoying as a child. When I measure Dawson up to those things from my childhood, he is still one of the truly great things from my days as a kid. Is he a sentimental favorite and a borderline Hall of Famer? Possibly. I don’t care. Say what you want to say.
I would like to end this ridiculously long post (is anyone still reading?) with a quote from Dawson. He said this after being asked about being a role model. “I wan’ all dem kids to do what I do, to look up to me. I wan’ all the kids to copulate me.”