14 July: (photo credit: www.bobblesgalore.com)
As we start the all-Cub team (caveat: post 1950) of all time a comparison will be offered. Starting with right field, and ending up with the two best in pitching; starters, set up, and closer.
A spirited debate will ensue, and the best will be anointed.
Of course certain outcomes are predetermined. Ernie Banks will be in there. So will Santo and Williams. But who are their closest rivals? And who could possibly challenge Williams in left field?
Before you say Gary ‘Sarge’ Matthews (think they’ll ever nickname a player that again?) what about Dave Kingman? He had one of the best years a Cub player ever had.
At first base is it Anthony Rizzo or Mark Grace? Careful now. Grace did lead the majors in hits for a decade. And ernie did patrol there for quite some time.
Our first case will be made for whose the fairest of them all in right field.
Andre Dawson or Sammy Sosa. Do yourselves a favor.
Don’t jump to conclusions…
Winner of 8 Gold Gloves and possessor of 438 home runs is Andre Nolan Dawson. Born in Miami on July 10th (Happy Birthday, btw) in 1954, the now 61 year old ‘Hawk’, or ‘Awesome Dawson’ as he was called, played at a stellar level for the Montreal Expos for eleven seasons.
He played center until the knees- weakened by the terrible artificial turf of that era- forced a move to right. He led the National League in putouts for three years in that cavern called Olympic Stadium.
Easily one of the worst baseball parks in history. Jarry Park was way cooler; it had the first swimming pool in the outfield; copied later by Arizona.
He was also in eight All Star Games. Stole over 30 bases three times.
The man played hard, and the turf – understand that artificial turf back then was a green carpet on an a very thin foam mat over asphalt. It isn’t soft at all, and you get rug burns when you slide on it. Nasty stuff, really; a creature of it’s time.
You did get a true bounce on it, although it was a ‘pool table’ quality bounce. You had to play back on line drives because of the bounce, or skip it would take. 8 years on it reduced Dawson’s knees to bone on bone; his cartilage shot.
No Glucosamine and Chondroitin back then.
So, after the ’86 season, Dawson went in search of a team with natural grass. But thanks to collusion (a story for another day) the pickings were slim.
He approached Dallas Green, then GM of the Cubs and offered his services.
Amazingly- or more appropriately very Cub like- Green rebuffed his advances. Green told Dawson he was committed to playing Brian Dayett in right field for the 1987 season.
Since Dayett was obtained from the Yankees, the Cubs immediately figured he was the next Mantle and penciled him in right.
He hit .258 in a five year career with 14 homers until he went to Japan.
Dawson, who cornered Green at training camp with his agent Dick Moss, arrived with a blank signed contract and offered to let the Cub GM enter the amount. Green famously called the stunt (it was, that) a ‘dog and pony show’, and sent them packing.
But sanity returned.
Brian Dayett? Really?
He sat down with Moss, offered him a $500 k contract with incentives for an additional $250 k IF he made the All Star team, started the game, and won the MVP.
He did ALL THREE.
Dawson went on to play 5 more seasons; sadly his worst was 1989 postseason when he was basically done, hitting .105 during the five games with the Cubs losing 4 of them.
Damn Zimmer. He should have pitched Scott Sanderson instead of Bielecki a second time. Oh well.
Andre Dawson was the last of a breed. You won’t see them like that anymore…
Samuel Kelvin ‘Sammy’ Peralta Sosa made his Major League debut June 16, 1989 for the Texas Rangers. Ironically, he made his LAST appearance September 29, 2007 for the same club.
In between he put up some amazing numbers; finishing with this 162 game average:
.273/.344/.878 OPS/42 hr/115 rbi’s
Over 18 seasons.
In his first game in the majors he hit a home run off of Roger Clemens. He ended up hitting 608 more.
The Texas Rangers traded him to the White Sox, and then assistant GM George W Bush (yes, THAT one) famously opined during the 2000 debates that ‘the biggest mistake he ever made’ was trading Sosa.
He actually had little to do with it, but it is a great story.
Razor thin and whippet fast back then, he was traded to the Cubs for George Bell in 1991. Showing some promise in ’92, he hit .260 with 8 homers in limited play.
The next season he became the first 30/30 man in Cub history. Possessed with a strong and accurate arm, he gave the team plus defense in right. He finished his career with an amazing 143 assists.
His 416 total bases were second only to Stan Musial’s 429 in 1948.
Of course, discussing Sosa means you simply must mention his ‘Flintsone vitamins’. And before anyone starts singling out this player and that understand that a LOT more of them were on PED’s than anyone knows.
Steroids were great for muscle recovery. Somebody who throws the baseball every day would benefit more than a slugger. You can bet many, if not most, of the relievers out there were ‘juicing’.
It wasn’t illegal then, either. It was ‘wink, wink/nod, nod’ as the Monty Python skit goes.
You HAVE to consider Sosa in the time he played. Remember Ron Santo talking about the ‘greenies’ (amphetamines) that were on the table in the dressing room right next to the Budweiser.
Not to belabor the point. The era was tainted; everyone knows it. But Buddy Boy Selig had NO problem cashing the checks Sosa and McGwire printed every day.
Andre Dawson is in the Hall Of Fame. Deservedly.
Sosa isn’t. Neither is Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, two of the best players ever.
Having seen both of them play, and giving Sosa credit for excellent post season numbers, and Dawson with just sheer grit, Cubsquest calls it a dead heat.
Next: Center Field