Cubs’ World Series victory meant the world to ‘Hawk’

hawkAndre Dawson may be a Hall of Famer and a longtime Chicago Cubs fan favorite. But on Nov. 1, 2016, he was just like every other Cubs fan around the world – hanging on every Game 7 pitch and praying for the 108-year World Series drought to end.

Dawson recounted his fond memories as a Cub, and the team’s crowning achievement, during Friday’s visit with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Advanced Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. During a Pelicans’ pre-game Q&A with Pelicans’ radio announcer Scott Kornberg, Dawson recalled how he had to catch an early flight for an appearance in Chicago the next day, but only if the Cubs won their first World Series since 1908.

“I’m sitting there watching the game, the Cubs are winning, and I’m sweating profusely because … it’s the Cubs,” joked Dawson while sitting just feet away from the World Series Trophy on display at TicketReturn.com Stadium. “You’re sitting there waiting, ‘OK, how are we going to blow this? In the eighth inning we had a three-run lead and I’m thinking, ‘OK, I guess I better go ahead and pack because I’ve got a 6 a.m. flight to catch.’ I go to pack and all of a sudden it’s tied, and I’m thinking ‘OK, I jinxed them.’

Having spent six of the best seasons of his 21-year career with the Cubs (1987-92), Dawson learned to expect the worst from the Loveable Losers. He even bought into the whole “Cubs curse” theory that includes the infamous billy goat of 1945, the black cat of 1969, and Steve Bartman of 2003. The stage was set for another legendary collapse.

“It goes into extra innings, then it starts to rain, so the only think I can think of is how is this going to end? How are they going to lose this game?” Dawson said. “When the final out was recorded I was lying down watching the game I jumped up and I literally pounded on my chest and yelled ‘We did it!’ Well, we didn’t do it, the Cubs did it.”

If anyone can say “we” in reference to the Cubs, it’s Dawson. His mutual love affair with the Bleacher Bums and Wrigley Field made him a hero among long-suffering Cubs fans who took delight in worshiping “The Hawk” – literally. The right-field bleachers greeted him with a salute known as the “salaam,” bowing in his presence. Ironically, it was the love he felt from the Wrigley Field fans before he became a Cub that convinced him to join the club.

“One thing about Wrigley Field was, as the opposition, I went in I was treated very well by Cubs fans, unlike other parks where fans can be real rude to you as the opposition,” Dawson recalled. “I remember my free agent year a fan yelling from the right field bleachers, ‘Hey, consider Chicago. We would love to have you here.’ I knew I had better numbers in day baseball, and I always enjoyed the Wrigley Field experience.”

So much so that Dawson did something unthinkable in the spring of 1987 – he courted the Cubs. While today’s free agents are fawned over by prospective teams, Dawson made a surprise visit to Cubs spring training camp and presented manager Dallas Green with an offer he couldn’t – and didn’t – refuse – a blank check to sign him for the upcoming season. It was less about the money than the love of the game.

“The Cubs and Braves were the only teams I visited during spring training, and I never made it to the Braves because the Cubs signed me,” Dawson said. “That was my dream come true. To see the fans ‘salaaming’ me when I ran out to right field. … It was just a love affair. The fans created Andre’s Army out in right field. It was in so many ways a new awakening for me.”

Dawson went on to win the National League MVP Award in 1987 and lead the Cubs to the playoffs in 1989. He went on to an eight-time NL All-Star, finishing with 2,774 hits, 438 homers and 1,591 RBIs. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010 – the pinnacle of his career until that fateful night last fall when the Chicago Cubs finally won it all.

“For anyone who ever wore a Cubs uniform that was a magical moment,” Dawson said. “I think about all the fans, not just the young fans, but the old fans who stuck with the team through so many years of losing. It was just a wonderful thing for the whole city.”

And for “The Hawk” personally.

– Photo by Larry Kave/MB Pelicans

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