Release the Hawk
Stop being so provincial, Cubs fans, and let Dawson go in as an Expo
As it I write this, it's Day 4 of Hawk-Watch. Thankfully, we've had our first Storm of the Decade to keep us occupied. Otherwise, how would much of Chicago have gotten through the past couple days?
We would have been tossing and turning in our flannel sheets, soaking through our pillowcases with worry and fear, our paranoia running rampant as Andre Dawson and the Baseball Hall of Fame try to figure out which hat will be perched on Hawk's long-awaited plaque in the sleepy hamlet of Cooperstown.
What else are we supposed to talk about? Perry Fewell? Some guy named Jeremy Bates? Another Blackhawks win?
About the only thing more important than sports minutiae in Chicago this time of year is scary updates about the weather. Television news (one of our meteorologists is aptly surnamed Freeze) delights in its power to frighten citizens, especially in a city where snow can turn a 20-mile ride on the highway into a two-hour trip to Thunderdome.
The snow helped Cubs fans keep an even keel as the devoted press corps kept them up to date with breaking new blog posts about the Great Decision of 2010.
On his ninth try, Dawson, the commander-in-chief of Andre's Army, a fan club that holds a venerated place in the minds of Cubs fans, was selected to the Hall of Fame this week. It was a rare moment of happiness for fans of a franchise that consistently disappoints.
Even an ownership change from the evil Tribune Co. was depressing and anticlimactic. Considering their first acts of business were to clean up the bathrooms, raise ticket prices and trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva, the Ricketts regime hasn't had its day in the sun quite yet.
But there are no negatives in celebrating Hawk's flight to baseball immortality.
Sure, the stathead naysayers will pick apart Dawson's negatives -- too few walks -- but the only reason people took up the wily arts of sabermetrics in the first place is because they once fell in love with a pastoral, hagiographic game. And for Cubs fans of a certain age, Andre Dawson represents more than numbers.
Parochial Cubs fans, which is to say, all of them, believe without a shadow of a doubt that his head should be adorned with a Chicago cap. Dawson has supposedly intimated the same sentiments to reporters. ESPN 1000's Bruce Levine has reported this, as has Cubs.com and other outlets.
Dawson, too, holds his six seasons as a Cub in high regard. After all, he picked Chicago as a place to play for peanuts, helping prove that baseball's owners were colluding against free agents, and he had some of his best seasons with the Cubs (despite having the knees of Bill Veeck), including winning the MVP for a last-place team.
Although Dawson, one of the game's consummate gentlemen, deserves the choice of chapeau, I think he should go into the Hall as an Expo. The Hall of Fame is, if nothing else, a museum. It's a place to preserve and disseminate history. The Expos probably weren't the best-thought-out expansion franchise, from the rock-hard turf of Olympic Stadium to the Baseball 101 seminars that went on for years to educate the Francophile population.
Yes, Olympic Stadium ravaged Dawson's knees, and its inaccessibility to mainstream American fans reduced his celebrity. Yes, the Expos bullied him financially, as was the style back then, but like a lot of great, great players since the organization was founded in 1969, it's still where Dawson got his start. The Montreal organization gave a lot more back to baseball than it received, which amounted to a raw deal.
The Expos were denied their shot at a World Series by the 1994 strike and were soon reduced to a laughingstock by Jeffrey Loria and baseball's hierarchy. Seriously, do some research on how Loria decimated the team before taking everything but Youppi down to Florida when he traded franchises with Major League Baseball. I remember covering them for MLB.com during trips to Chicago, and it was depressing. There was no hope for success as the team shuffled along as a ward of the commissioner. The Expos, in their dying days, made the Pirates seem hopeful.
Gary Carter, the Kid, is the only player in the Hall wearing the confusing Expos logo, with the "e" representing Expos, the "b" at the end for baseball and the "m" in the middle. Pedro Martinez, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, probably won't pick the Expos hat. Maybe Canadian Larry Walker would, if he ever gets in, after he goes on the ballot next year.
The Expos have no home, no Old Timers Day, nothing. The Washington Nationals don't celebrate their days north of the border, like an immigrant who anglicizes his name and hides his ancestry. ("Who, me? I'm American as apple pie and private health care!")
The thing is, Dawson won't be any less important a historical figure, any less a 1980s folk hero to Cubs fans if he goes in as an Expo. It's the right thing to do. So put your provinciality and your Second City inferiority complex behind you and support the Expos-for-Dawson movement. Do it for history. Keep the Expos alive, if only in our faraway museums.
World Series aside, you are richer than you know, Cubs fans. You have Wrigley Field and Ernie Banks and the old scoreboard and the bleachers where Andre's Army congregated.
And it's not like the Cubs won't have Hall of Famers in the future. When is Mark Prior eligible again?
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.