Now that’s a photo you probably never thought you’d see. It’s Andre Dawson, who had six outstanding years as a Cub wearing No. 8, uniformed in... No. 11.
My friend Tim Shockley told me recently he was looking through old photos and found this one he took of Andre at spring training 1987, the day after Dawson signed with the Cubs.
Obviously, Dawson never wore this number in a regular-season game. So how did this happen?
I was put in touch with Harry Sherman, a friend of Andre’s, and I asked Harry if he’d query the man himself about his memories of how this uniform number change happened more than 30 years ago.
Andre says the No. 11 was in his locker waiting for him when he reported to spring training in Mesa in 1987. Andre had been wearing No. 10 in Montreal, but with the Cubs, that number belonged to Leon Durham (long before it was retired for Ron Santo). So the Cubs put the next closest number (11) in his locker before he arrived. Later, when he was asked for his preference, Andre chose No. 8. Why? Because he had worn that number when he was a kid playing baseball growing up in Florida.
No. 11 had been worn for four Cubs seasons by Ron Cey, who left the Cubs after 1986 as a free agent. Tribune columnist Bob Verdi, noting Dawson’s impending signing in the paper on March 7, 1987, wrote that Andre would be wearing No. 28! Obviously that didn’t happen, and fortunately for Andre, his childhood No. 8 was available... but not until he’d worn No. 11 for at least one day’s worth of spring practice.
You probably remember Dawson playing for the Expos wearing that No. 10, but that wasn’t always the case. When he was first called up to Montreal in late 1976, he was assigned No. 24. He couldn’t get his childhood No. 8 because it belonged to Gary Carter, already a star player for the Expos. Dawson played, curiously enough, 24 games wearing No. 24 for Montreal in September 1976. That included a season-ending three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. I went to one of those games, a 3-1 Cubs win on October 2, 1976. Dawson didn’t have a very good day, going 0-for-4 against Ray Burris. I do recall noting the young (just 21!), tall, slender center fielder playing for the Expos that afternoon, who looked good in the field if not at the plate.
In 1977, the Expos signed Tony Perez, the longtime Reds first baseman, as a free agent. Perez wore No. 24 throughout his Reds career. Andre gave Perez No. 24 as a sign of respect and took No. 10 and wore it throughout the rest of his time in Montreal.
After six years as a Cub wearing No. 8, Andre departed as a free agent and signed with the Red Sox, where he switched from No. 8 back to No. 10 because No. 8 was retired in Boston for Carl Yastrzemski. In Dawson’s final two MLB seasons with the Marlins, he changed back to his childhood No. 8, as No. 10 was taken by Gary Sheffield.
So now you know Andre Dawson’s complete uniform number story. There’s been talk of the Cubs possibly retiring No. 8 in honor of Dawson’s career on the North Side, and now that he’s a Hall of Famer, that would be a fine honor for a fine gentleman.
And now you also know the story of how he came to wear No. 11 for a brief time during spring training 1987. This is the only photo I’ve ever seen of him in that number; it might be the only one that exists. Thanks again to Tim Shockley for sharing it with me and to Harry Sherman and Andre Dawson for the details on his various uniform numbers.