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Andre Dawson To Be Celebrated By Cubs Tonight

Last month, Andre Dawson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Tonight, he will be honored by the Cubs prior to the game with the Pirates. Just to make it absolutely clear -- his #8 is not going to be retired by the team. Here's what will happen:
The Cubs will present a special gift to "The Hawk" and recognize him during an on-field ceremony before the team's 7:05 p.m. game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In addition to the ceremony at Wrigley Field, Mayor Daley has officially proclaimed August 30, 2010 as "Andre Dawson Day" in Chicago. Finally, the first 10,000 fans entering the ballpark on August 30 will receive a commemorative Andre Dawson ball cap, compliments of The PrivateBank.

After the jump, a couple of my favorite Dawson stories from his time as a Cub.

The 1987 season, though disappointing from a team standpoint, was magical for Andre. He became a fan favorite and won the NL MVP award. On September 27, 1987, the Cubs took the field for their final home game of that season against the Cardinals, a sunny, gorgeous early-autumn afternoon.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, with the Cubs leading 6-3, Andre came up to bat for the final time at home that season. Naturally, he was greeted with a tremendous ovation. His home runs had been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year.

Andre ran the count to 3-1 off Cardinals reliever Bill Dawley, and then hit the next pitch onto Waveland Avenue. It was a magical moment. Andre hit two more homers during the season-ending trip to finish with 49 -- at the time, the second-highest total in Cubs history. (Footnote: also homering in that game was current Cubs 1B coach Bob Dernier -- his last home run in a Cubs uniform.)

Two years later, Andre battled knee injuries and missed 44 games and had a miserable season. Thanks to Jerome Walton, Greg Maddux and others, the Cubs were in a fight for the NL East title. A divisional lead that had been as much as 4.5 games in August had dropped to only a half game over the Cardinals when, on September 8, the Cubs blew a 7-1 lead to St. Louis at Wrigley Field and lost 11-8.

The next afternoon, a Saturday, the game began in cloudy and cool conditions and it began to rain lightly. The Cubs took a 1-0 lead, but the Cardinals made it 2-1 St. Louis with a pair in the sixth. In the eighth inning, Dwight Smith singled cleanly to right and never stopped, aggressively taking second right in front of a startled Cardinals RF, Tom Brunansky, whose throw was barely late. Luis Salazar singled him in to tie the game.

It continued, the rain getting a little harder but never enough for the umpires to halt play. With one out in the bottom of the 11th, Dawson, who had gone 0-for-4, walked. Up came Salazar again; he sliced a ball down the right field line for a hit; the ball trickled its way toward the RF corner.

And Andre Dawson, bad knees and all, would not be denied. Like a runaway train, he barreled around the bases and scored the winning run standing up, landing in the embrace of Shawon Dunston (there's a famous photo of this that made the cover of the NLCS program that was sold at Wrigley Field that year). The Cubs, who had been in danger of falling out of the NL East lead had they lost that game, instead made it the beginning of a 15-6 run and won the division by six games.

Those are two of the most indelible memories I have of Andre's tenure with the Cubs; in many ways they both sum up his career.

Thanks for the memories, Andre; in a 2010 season nearly devoid of such memories, we'll be glad to honor you tonight.