"He is the first major free agent [from another city] who has wanted to play in Chicago," pitcher Rick Sutcliffe says. Dawson favored Chicago because 1) he wanted to play on grass to reduce the stress on his knees; 2) coming into this season, his lifetime average in day games was .306, in night games .265; 3) he had a career average of .346 at Wrigley, where he gives new meaning to the phrase "the friendly confines"; 4) he wanted to stay in the National League and play for a contender; and 5) Chicago wasn't Montreal.
Last year Dawson was troubled by trade rumors that always seemed to include his name, and he felt that because the Expos had traded Gary Carter, the front office had lost its drive to win. Montreal offered Dawson $1 million a season for two years if he would stay. This was less than the $1,055,000 he received in 1986 and, anyway, he wasn't looking to stay.
Dick Moss, Dawson's attorney, let Green know of his client's desire to move to Chicago. "In my heart," Green said at the time, "the Cubs don't need Dawson.... If Andre hits .900, it won't matter, if the rest of the team doesn't play well...."
Green was frankly embarrassed by the club's fat payroll (second-highest in the majors) and dead set against signing any more free agents. "Our experience in the free-agent field was almost nauseating," Green says. Sutcliffe offered to surrender $100,000 of his $1.8 million salary if that money would help sign Dawson. In spite of the offer, the front office was unmoved.
To break the impasse, Moss and Dawson gave the Cubs a blank contract and promised to sign it after the club filled in the numbers. The Cubs offered Dawson $500,000, guaranteed. "I was still looking for the fly in the ointment," Green says, "I was still looking for the gimmick. That's why I made the type of offer I did. I knew it was low. I knew it was going to hurt. But it was the only way I could deal with my own principles and try to be consistent."
Green did not expect Dawson to accept, but Andre is a rare human being as well as a rare ballplayer. He kept his word. On top of the guarantee, Dawson can make $150,000 if he doesn't go on the disabled list with a knee injury before the All-Star Game. There are other bonuses, including one for making the All-Star team—a fairly good bet considering his numbers.
Dawson thinks the $500,000 was absurdly low. "But I just wanted to play ball and be happy again," he says. "When your own teammates tell you it's time to move on, then you have to start thinking of changing things."
Moss and Green have discussed redoing Dawson's contract, but neither has put any specifics on the bargaining table. "I told Dick that it's not a priority, but I would be glad to entertain ideas," Green says.
The way Dawson is going, Green is going to be entertaining a lot of ideas. Especially if Andre's knees hold up. He has had surgery on both and in recent years has had to drain them of fluid two or three times. This year they have not been drained, and he says they feel better than they have since early in his career. Obviously, he doesn't miss the concretelike turf at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.
Or the fans. He has plenty of new ones. Jerry Pritikin, 50, has watched Cub games from the leftfield bleachers for 42 years. On Wednesday, for the first time, he moved to right.