Dallas Green recalls Andre Dawson 'blank check' signing

Andre Dawson

In this 1989 file photo, Andre Dawson makes a curtain-call after a three-run homer. (Ed Wagner, Jr., McClatchy-Tribune)

  • Fred Mitchell
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Chicago Cubs GM had to play the game a bit to get it done

Most free-agent negotiations are conducted under clandestine circumstances, far from the prying eyes of the public and media.

But in 1987, for all to witness during spring training in Mesa, Ariz., free agent Andre Dawson and agent Dick Moss demanded the immediate and undivided attention of Cubs management.

Dallas Green, then the Cubs' bombastic general manager, took umbrage at the fact the future Hall of Famer and Moss showed up with a blank contract. Green huffed and puffed, then referred to Dawson and Moss as "a dog and pony show."

I was the Tribune's Cubs beat reporter at the time, and In the Wake of the News columnist Bob Verdi and I thought the entire surreal scene was made for TV, as well as newspapers.

I spoke with Green on Wednesday about the scene and he provided some background.

"It all started in 1984 when we won (the division) and I had to sign all of those guys to multiyear contracts, and big contracts," said Green, 75, now the senior adviser to the general manager of the Phillies. "You know, Rick Sutcliffe and Steve Trout and Scott Sanderson and Dennis Eckersley. ... I had to re-sign all of those guys because they were on one-year deals. It took a pretty good chunk of dough. And, of course, in '85 we didn't do too well, and in '86 we struggled a little, as well. It was where Tribune Co. finally had to put (its) foot down and say, 'Hey, we're approaching the payroll we want to be at.' I said, 'Well, I love this guy (Dawson).'

"Dick Moss was forthright with me and said: 'Look, this kid wants to get out of Montreal because he doesn't want to play on (artificial) turf anymore.' Finally I went to the general managers meeting in California during spring training.

"I got word that Dick had brought Andre into spring training, which I asked him specifically not to do.

"I told him, 'Let's not put any more pressure on the Tribune than we have to, and let's just keep working at it.' "

Moss was one of the top agents of that era and was determined to help prove collusion among the owners.

Showing up with a blank check would help force the hand of the Cubs.

"But it really made me mad to the point where I said, 'Look, I'm done with you guys. ... You made a big splash with the press. I'm not going to fool with you,' " Green recalled. "He was a pusher and he pushed me too far.

"The next day, after Dick had already talked to you guys in the press, he offered the blank contract. And we certainly had to look at that.

"We looked at it and I got enough money so at least I could sign it. It wasn't a very nice contract ($500,000) for Andre at the time, particularly after what he had done. But it was all I could do."

Dawson paid immediate dividends for an otherwise woeful Cubs team.

Dawson hit 49 home runs and drove in 137 runs to earn the league MVP award.

Dawson wound up with 438 home runs, a .279 batting average and eight Gold Gloves during his 21-year career.

With Wednesday's announcement that he has been elected to the Hall of Fame, Green offered his congratulations.

"I wanted him all along," Green said. "But I had to play the game a little bit. Hell, you had to like Andre as a player. I loved him."

fmitchell@tribune.com

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