Wrigley 100 September 27: Andre’s Last At-Bat
On this day in 1987, Andre Dawson came to the plate for one last at-bat in an MVP season. With the crowd standing and begging for one more Wrigley Field home run, he delivered.
The story started in spring training when Dawson was a collusion casualty and looking for a place to play. He offered Dallas Green a blank check and the Cubs GM quickly accepted.
Rick Sutcliffe lobbied heavily for Dawson’s addition and was thrilled with his new right fielder. “When he signed on, all of a sudden we had a chance to win. He was the MVP, I led the league in wins, and without him, I might not have won ten games that year.”
A sixth-place finish wasn’t the magical year Sutcliffe was hoping for, but Dawson was nothing less than incredible. Dallas Green and the Cubs received a handsome return on their $500,000 investment as Dawson finished with a staggering 49 home runs and 137 RBI. After finishing second twice in the MVP voting, Dawson won it in 1987, the first-ever winner from a last place team.
Dawson was an immediate favorite with the Wrigley faithful, especially the natives in the right field bleachers who applauded each of his home runs with what Harry Caray quickly dubbed “salaams.” With the Cubs going nowhere, fans had little to cheer for except the new right fielder, whose booming bat and rifle arm virtually guaranteed a can’t-miss highlight every game. On the last home game of the season, Dawson gave Cub fans one final thrill for the ages.
With two out in the bottom of the 8th, Dawson came to the plate for his last at-bat of the season at Wrigley Field. In the booth, Harry Caray echoed every Cub fan’s thoughts when he wished aloud, “wouldn’t it be great if he could do it one more time?” As the crowd stood as one and demanded a giant exclamation point on his MVP season, Dawson delivered with a rocket into the left field bleachers off Bill Dawley for his 47th round-tripper of the year.
“That’s what you call pressure,” laughed Dawson. “You know the fans want it and I had done it so often for them during the course of that year. You can’t swing for a home run because you’re going to overswing, you might just miss it, and if you get a good pitch to hit you might foul it off. My thinking was that I was going to work the count and get a pitch that I could drive. It happened to be against a pitcher who woke me up because he pretty much threw a pitch behind me earlier in the year and at that point, he couldn’t get me out any more. I worked the count to 3-1, he threw me a 3-1 changeup and it just happened to be in the zone that I was looking in. I was able to get the bathead on it and hit it out of the ballpark.”
Ryne Sandberg watched in admiration as Dawson pulled it off. “It was his last at-bat and the fans were on their feet and of course, they were wanting a home run. So for the guy to go up there and hit a ball like he did, he just crushed it to left field – way out. It was amazing. He was amazing that summer.”
Cubs uber-fan Jeff Garlin was living in the neighborhood and counts Dawson’s homer as his favorite Cubs memory. “There used to be a television-stereo store across the street, I forget the name of it, but I was in there. Last game of the season. Andre Dawson is at bat and I don’t remember if it was the last at-bat, it may have been the last at-bat, Harry Caray said, I remember the exact quote, “it would be poetic justice if he could only hit one out. Now, why it would be poetic justice, we were in last place. I didn’t understand that but I fell for it and Andre hit it out! He hit it out! I remember being in the store and I was screaming. Thank God it was in Chicago and nobody thought I was nuts, because they jumped in like ‘what happened’ ‘Andre just hit it!’ Poetic justice.”