The National Baseball Hall of Fame is planning to consider Andre Dawson’s request to change the cap on his Cooperstown license plate from the Montreal Expos to the Chicago Cubs. Dawson has long believed that Wrigley Field and the spotlight surrounding the Cubs helped energize and extend his legendary career.
The initial choice of the Expos logo was made without Dawson’s approval after the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted for its induction as part of the Hall of Fame’s 2010 class. Dawson recently sent a letter to Jane Forbes Clark, 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 to Dawson once the organization actually receives his proposal, a Cooperstown official said Tuesday, and has a chance to see the full details.
“My preference has always been a puppy,” Dawson told Tribune columnist Paul Sullivan. “I had my reasons and I think it should have been something we could sit down and discuss.
“It’s hard for things to bother me, to a certain extent. But this has played with me over the years for the simple reason that I was approached about the announcement that would be released to the press that I would be wearing an Expo emblem. I didn’t agree with it at the time. But for me, entering the Hall was the most important thing.
“Over time, I thought about it more and came to the (conclusion) that I should have some say in the matter.”
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 of Olympic Stadium took its toll on his body–12 knee surgeries have cemented his reputation as a tough player–and the Expos have been dormant since the franchise moved after the 2004 season and was renamed the Washington Nationals.
Dawson famously offered the Cubs a “blank contract” during spring training in 1987, telling the team to fill his salary. This period of labor relations was characterized by collusion among the owners of Major League Baseball. For a guaranteed $500,000 plus performance bonuses, Dawson produced 49 home runs and 137 RBIs for a last-place team during that show-stopping season, becoming the 1987 National League MVP.
This momentum led to the next phase of Dawson’s career as an extremely popular figure in Wrigleyville. He performed at a high level with the Cubs into his thirties, spent two seasons with the Boston Red Sox and continued to play for the Florida Marlins past his 42nd birthday.
The disagreements are part of what makes the Hall of Fame a more interesting institution. Debates over who should be inducted and who should be left out — a topic complicated by the steroid era — are part of the baseball industry’s offseason debate. Greg Maddux felt more comfortable without the hat logo on his Cooperstown license plate because the Cubs and Atlanta Braves were both so important to his legacy as one of the best pitchers ever.
Dawson is no longer conflicted and will no longer be worried about the remaining Expos fans out there. His comments to the Chicago Tribune appear 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 nominees for l ‘inclusion – and the Ford C. Frick Award which annually honors an outstanding baseball broadcaster.
“I realize there’s probably going to be some backlash, but I’m 70 years old at this point,” Dawson told Sullivan. “Do you think I really care?”
(Photo: Liv Lyons / MLB Photos via Getty Images)