On March 6, 1987, Andre Dawson made one of the most famous bets in sports history … but this one had nothing to do with gamblers or breaking baseball’s cardinal rule or anything nefarious at all on Dawson’s part.
Nope — March 6, 1987, was the day Dawson bet on himself in the most obvious way possible.
After inexplicably finding no takers in free agency that winter, Dawson walked into the Chicago Cubs’ Spring Training camp and handed them a signed, blank contract.
“Pay me what you think is fair,” he was telling them.
Dawson had been one of the best players in the game for nearly a decade while playing with the Montreal Expos, but he would suit up for the Cubbies for a guaranteed $500,000, with another $550,000 in the offing based on incentives.
Even if he hit them all, The Hawk would be a bargain. Even by 1987 standards.
Of course, Dawson did more than meet playing-time incentives, did more than make the National League All-Star team.
In that first season at Wrigley Field, the future Hall of Famer put together the sort of monster campaign that fans and experts had predicted throughout his career, mashing 49 home runs and driving in 137 runs for a last-place Chicago team.
By that point, all the pounding he took playing on Montreal’s granite-hard outfield turf had wrecked his knees, but Dawson still managed 11 stolen bases while being thrown out just three times in that golden summer with the Cubs.
All of it added up to an MVP award, a rejuvenated career, and a march toward Cooperstown.
And, of course, more hobby love than ever.
All through that 1987 season, when home runs flew out of parks at historic rates but when Dawson topped all sluggers, his cards spiraled up in demand and value.
His 1977 Topps rookie card that he shares with three other players was, of course, the plum, but his first solo card (1978 Topps) and all that followed became hobby favorites all over again, too.
Also of course, what we were missing was a Dawson card showing him in Cubs pinstripes (or road blues).
We would just have to wait until the year-end traded sets hit hobby shelves.
Except … we wouldn’t.
Because, 1987 was right in the heart of the 1980s hobby boom, which meant there were baseball cards in every nook and cranny of the country, including various themed “box sets” offered up at five-and-dime outlets across the land.
Those 33- and 44-card sets generally showcased the game’s biggest names and gave the card manufacturers a chance to expand their footprint even further than millions of wax packs could do.
And, as homer totals exploded across baseball, and with collectors clamoring for more cards of phenom Mark McGwire and a Cubs-Dawson cardboard marriage, Fleer rolled out their second edition of the “Sluggers vs. Pitchers” set.
The 44 cards were split down the middle, featuring 22 hitters and 22 hurlers, with both McGwire and Dawson represented.
Of course, issued as they were during the season, these cards were not able to show 1987 stats, but they did show updated team affiliations.
And so, there on card number 12, we see The Hawk taking his cut in the Wrigley sunshine, one of the first baseball cards to ever capture that magic.
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You knew that Dawson was, indeed, a “slugger,” too, because Fleer lists career batting averages on the front of each card — after all, what says “slugger” better than McGwire’s .189 mark, or even Dawson’s .280.
Curious statistical designations aside, Dawson’s pasteboards is that sort of ugly-garish-spectacular that only 1980s and early 1990s baseball cards could muster, but it looks — and, especially in 1987, looked — just about perfect.
And, do you think The Hawk has just connected on another big fly?
You can just about bet on it.
One of the most iconic Hawk cards, of course, is his 1977 Topps rookie card, shared with three other players.
Or, as in this eBay lot, 25 of the most iconic Hawk cards …
Yes, that’s a lot of 25 Andre Dawson rookie cards, all in one place.
Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).
1981 Topps Baseball Cards Complete Your Set U-Pick (#'s 1-200) Nm-Mint
| $1.29 |
End Date: Tuesday 04/04/2023 20:47:49 EDT
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