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2015 Spring-Training Countdown, Day 8: Andre Dawson

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One of the classiest gentlemen to ever wear a Cubs uniform. (And a great player, too.)

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Andre Dawson spent just six years as a Cub, and, except for his 1987 MVP season, probably had his best years as a Montreal Expo.

But he is beloved by Cubs fans, not only for his great performance, but for his quiet leadership and his relationship with fans. Andre made it known that he wanted to get out of Montreal and play somewhere with natural grass to help his ailing knees. You all know about what then-GM Dallas Green called a "dog-and-pony show" with Dawson showing up at spring training with a signed blank contract, telling the Cubs to fill in the amount.

Imagine that happening in 2015.

Anyway, it wasn't clear that Andre wasn't on the decline. He'd missed 32 games with injuries in 1986 and his hitting, while good, wasn't up to his previous standards. And you might not recall this, but after his first 14 Cubs games, Dawson was hitting .179/.233/.357 (10-for-56, three home runs, 11 strikeouts).

Just then he went on a tremendous hot streak. Over his next 18 games, he hit .394/.423/.833 (26-for-66, eight home runs, 20 RBI, only eight strikeouts). That's what began to cement him in Cubs lore. His play in the outfield that year was outstanding. He had 12 assists, though his limited range gave him a small negative defensive WAR.

Two other games stand out from Dawson's 1987 MVP year. On August 1 he hit three homers against the Phillies at Wrigley Field and drove in all five Cubs runs in a 5-3 win. And then there was the final home game that year, September 27 against the Cardinals. Andre stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with the Cubs leading 6-3. It was almost certainly to be his last Wrigley at-bat that year. He was greeted with a prolonged ovation, and I knew I felt it had to happen -- one last home run to put the exclamation point on his season.

He ran the count to 3-1 and then deposited the next pitch into the back of the left-field bleachers. In a season where the Cubs had a MVP performance and what should have been a Cy Young year from Rick Sutcliffe (I still can't figure out how the voters picked Steve Bedrosian) and finished last anyway at 75-87, it was a magical moment.

He hit two more homers on the season-ending road trip and at the time, the 49 home runs was second-most in Cubs history; only Hack Wilson's 56 in 1930 exceeded it back then. The MVP vote was one of the last old-fashioned HR/RBI votes; Dawson didn't finish in the top 10 in the N.L. in WAR (of course, that statistic didn't exist at the time).

Dawson's injuries took their toll. He missed a lot of time in the 1989 N.L. East title year and was a non-factor in the NLCS. He departed after 1992 to finish his career in Boston and Miami. I remember well the ovation he received when he pinch-hit for the Marlins May 27, 1995, his first return to Wrigley as a visitor after he left.

He's now working in a front-office capacity for the Marlins, but Andre Dawson will always be a beloved Cub. Chris Coghlan, who grew up a fan of Dawson and who had been assigned No. 28 on his recall to the team last May, actually asked Andre if Dawson minded if he wore it as a tribute. Flattered, Dawson of course said yes. So this year, when you see Coghlan wear No. 8 in the outfield, know that it's in honor of a great former Cub who is well-loved everywhere.