It wasn't as if Andre Dawson had slandered Ernie Banks. Or had slipped Harry Caray a phone number for the Columbia School of Broadcasting. Or had asked when the Cubs were going to turn on the lights at Wrigley Field. For the love of ivy, all Dawson had done last week was hit five homers and drive in 13 runs in three days. But now on this sunny Wednesday afternoon the rest of the Chicago Cubs were giving him the cold shoulder. No high fives. No congratulations.
"We've shaken Andre's hand so much lately, we decided to wait till the next time," catcher Jody Davis said. Dawson walked through the dugout and heard snickering. Then he did something he almost never does during a game.
He smiled. This was no timid grin. This was a say-cheese, ear-to-ear, all-out smile.
Which was only fair, because for two months the Hawk has been igniting smiles all over the North Side. At week's end he was tied for the major league lead with 20 homers, and his 57 RBIs were tops in the bigs.
What's more, the surprising Cubbies are in a pennant race. Cub fans, like Dawson, would trade all the ninth-inning homers and diving catches for a flag—they've gone 41 years without one. It won't be easy this year, either. The Cardinals won three of four last weekend and left town with a three-game lead over the Cubs in the National League East. It's still early in the season, and the 146,316 fans who jammed Wrigley to catch the series saw an exciting Chicago team with plenty of fight in it.
Dawson, 32, has made the game fun for Chicago players and fans alike. The cold shoulder, for example, came in the midst of a 22-7 rout of Houston that was punctuated by six Cub homers, two of them grand slams. As of Sunday the Cubs led the National League with 80 homers, a pace that would give them 236 by year's end. (The club record is 182. As Joe Garagiola once observed, "The Chicago Cubs are like Rush Street—a lot of singles but no action.")
Dawson has lightened the mood of the club, and Chicago, in turn, has made the game fun again for him. "The fans have been phenomenal," he says. "I had more applause in the first month here than I did in 10 years in Montreal."
Though the fans at Wrigley Field have helped soothe his soul (and the grass there his aching knees), Dawson is still getting used to his new digs and daytime baseball. "I never thought I was a night person anyway," he says. "I wanted to eat breakfast, go to the park and get it over with. Then go home, eat a meal and go to bed. I try to keep even-keeled. People say, 'You're having a good season. Why don't you smile more?' It's not my nature. I won't go off on any kind of a frenzy until the seventh game of the World Series is won."
"The time was right for a guy like Andre Dawson to come along," says Chicago general manager Dallas Green. "After two years of lousy baseball performances, he's like a breath of fresh air for the fans."
The Bleacher Bums have found that there are many reasons to love this man teammates in Montreal used to call Andre Awesome. His bat: Dawson is hitting .296, with seven game-winning and 10 game-tying RBIs. His defense: Dawson brought six Gold Gloves with him from Montreal. His work ethic: Last week, with the Cubs leading the Astros 9-1, Dawson chased down a foul fly by Glenn Davis, nearly stumbled over the bullpen mound in rightfield, made the catch and crashed into the wall. His sacrifice: Yes, there is that matter of the 50% pay cut he took to play in Chicago.