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By Jerry Pritikin
As a baseball fan, I have been lucky to see my fair share of ballplayers - visiting or with the Cubs - who came up and stayed much, much longer than for just a cup of coffee. Over the years, I have had Cubs Heroes, and on many occasions met them, too. Sometimes, it is hard to compare today's stars with those from another era. My dad tried that with me, always comparing his Cubs of 1906-08 with all the Cubs teams since then, but mostly the teams since I became loyal, back in 1945, when I was eight years old, and the Cubs were the National League Champions.
However, when it comes to pick my favorite player who ever played in a Cubs uniform, it would be easy for me to make a choice. On Wednesday, baseball's Hall of Fame announced its latest member: Andre Dawson. He belongs there.
I watched almost every playing moment he had at the Friendly Confines in a Cubs uniform. I was a Chaplain in Andre's Army. More of my signs were dedicated to him, and his play, than any other Cubs player of that era. He was the Tribune Company's best buy ever when they took him up on his "BLANK CHECK" offer.
When Andre played for the Expos, he was always a Cubs Killer. I respected him like I would Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson or Willie Mays. Greatness, and Genuine Love for the game, and respect for the fans. It was a mutual admiration society. Within weeks after the season started, left my regular preaching area in the left field pew and drifted into new territory, near the right field outfield corner. The most worn out sign that I made in 1987 had it's start there: ANDRE MAKES OUR DAY- EVERYDAY!
One sunny day, as usual, I arrived when they opened the gate. I was setting my gear down, when a bunch of young fans asked if they could sit with me. They had brought large letters spelling out Dawson's name. The asked me to be in the center. And when Andre came out in the first inning, the cheers from right field roared. I held my sign up between the others. There was a young man walking around with a press pass hanging from his trouser's belt. He asked me a few things and asked me what I thought of Andre, and I said "Most people call Andre Awesome because it rhymes with Dawson . . . even if his name was Schwartz, he would still be awesome!"
He asked me if I had said that before and I said no. He was walking away when I asked him who he was working for, and he said Sports Illustrated. The "Awesome" quote and our group holding the signs made the center spread in the following week's issue.
I was also there on the day Andre threw out a batter at first from right field, and when San Diego pitcher Eric Show hit him with a pitch that could have ended Andre's career.
Every time he banged a round-tripper in 1987, the third floor residents in the yellow building to the right of the scoreboard on Waveland would add to the latest HR totals number. When he hit his 49th, chants of MVP sprang out from almost every seat in the ballpark. The Cubs were going nowhere that season, but Andre made us forget, because each and every at-bat I knew I was looking at the N.L. 1987 MVP.
I was disappointed when he left for Boston, but I appreciated the time he spent roaming Wrigley's right field. Maybe with a little luck I'll be at Cooperstown to see him take his place among the game's greatest players.
Thanks Andre, for being there for us throughout your playing days, especially at the Friendly Confines, and after your induction to the Hall of Fame, for all times.
- Jerry Pritikin, Chaplain, Andre's Army-1987
* Saluting Andre Dawson: A Beachwood Bow
And also by Beachwood Bleacher Preacher Jerry Pritikin:
* Lament of the Bleacher Preacher, Part 1