Hall Of Famer Andre Dawson And The Montreal Expos' Past Of The Washington Nationals' Franchise.

• Andre Dawson - Montreal Expos/Chicago Cubs/Boston Red Sox/Florida Marlins: 21 seasons, 2,627 games, 2,774 hits, 503 doubles, 98 triples, 438 HR's, 1,591 RBI's, 314 steals, a .279 CBA, one Rookie of the Year award, (ROY-1977), 8 All-Star appearances, one NL MVP award, (NL MVP- 1987), and nine Hall of Fame ballots.

The Hawk, Andre Dawson still holds the Washington Nationals' Franchise Season Records for the Most Away HR's in a season, (tied with Alfonso Soriano - 2006) with 22 HR's hit on the road for the Montreal Expos during the 1983 campaign, and Most Sac Flies, with the 18 the then-28-year-old Dawson hit that same year. In spite of his history with the team that now calls itself the Nationals, Dawson was quoted in Chicago newspapers after he was voted into the Hall with an Expos cap saying that he'd have preferred to have been immortalized in a Cubs cap in recognition of the city he feels truly embraced him once he left the Expos and Montreal. There are reports this morning, however, from MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling, in an article entitled, "Three issues to mull over in NatsTown", that the Nats will take the first steps toward recognizing the Montreal past of the franchise when they honor Dawson on August 10th at home in Nationals Park. 

I wrote about Mr. Dawson and the Montreal history of the Nationals' franchise for a feature article over at SBNDC. For those among you who always wished I had an editor, you might enjoy reading that article, for the rest of you, I've included the original text of the article after the JUMP, but by all means read both though, it's an off day, what else do you have to do...


Andre Dawson's fellow Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos' teammate Gary Carter, the only other Expo to wear the tri-color cap in the Hall, addressed the Washington Nationals' unwillingness to acknowledge their French-Canadian roots in an article last year by New York Times' writer Tyler Kepner entited, "Montreal Expos, Forgotten by Many, Are Reuniting in Cooperstown" in which Mr. Carter was quoted lamenting the fact, "...the Expos’ history is not acknowledged at Nationals Park,":

"'That’s really the sad part,' Carter said. 'At least recognize and embrace the fact that they were in Montreal for 36 years.'"

"This has been a sore subject with DC fans," MLB.com's Bill Ladson, who covered the Montreal Expos for MLB from November 1, 2002 until they played their last game in 2004, acknowledged when I asked him for his thoughts on Dawson's induction into the Hall. "Andre Dawson should've been in the Hall a long time ago, before Gary Carter," Mr. Ladson says, "Dawson was a complete player, played in pain all the time, had a bad knee injury since he was a teenager," and in spite of the knee injuries, (first suffered playing football in high school in Florida, which required 12 operations over the course of his career), Dawson worked as hard as than anyone and was able to accomplish all of his Hall-of-Fame-worthy achievements on balky knees. Isn't that the sort of player you'd like to have as a part of your franchise's history? Mr. Ladson quoted the lone player among this year's Hall of Fame inductees in a blog post earlier this Spring entitled, "Twitter poll: Should Nats honor Andre Dawson?", in which the 56-year-old Dawson expressed an interest in being a part of the Nationals' history: 

""That would be a decision they would have to make,' Dawson said Wednesday. 'I really don't know how to answer that other than I would be honored and thrilled [if they did]. That would be up to them.'"

"I understand the Nationals' desire to cultivate the ties to historical D.C. baseball," Dave Nichols, (who covers the Nationals for the Nats News Network, and was one of the first DC-based writers this Expos' fan met and befriended after the franchise left Montreal), tells me when I ask him about Dawson and the Expos, "...but there really should be some sort of recognition of the actual history of this franchise, and that history is in Montreal. I'm not suggesting a statue of Andre Dawson out in the centerfield plaza, but would a plaque or mural be out of the question? Surely the team could find a suitable place to honor those teams and players, other than mere footnotes in the history books.

"Dawson was one of the best players in this franchise's history," Mr. Nichols continued, "Why wouldn't the Nationals want to honor him as he's inducted into the Hall of Fame? There are other non-D.C. based Hall of Famers on the columns on the concourse around Nationals Park--why not honor part of this franchise's history by putting up murals of Dawson and Carter, Hall of Famers that actually played for this franchise."

Will Yoder, who writes The Nats Blog, is part of a younger generation of Nats fans than my own, one that grew up without a local team to root for, and was one of the Mid-Atlantic-based baseball fans petitioning for baseball's return to the nation's capital before it became a reality in 2005:

"When I was 12 I stood outside a restaurant in Arlington, VA with my mother holding signs and clipboards that said, 'Bring Baseball To Virginia.' An angry "NIMBY" crossed the street just to antagonize us. No, he wasn’t an Expos fan, he just couldn’t stand the idea of building a stadium in Northern Virginia. As this grown man verbally assaulted a single-mother, who was clearly only there to support her middle-school aged sons activism, I thought, "This guy really could have used a hometown baseball team growing up."

As a Nationals fan with no attachment to the Montreal past of the franchise, Mr. Yoder still believes that the Nationals should find some way of recognizing the sacrifice Expos fans made so that Washington could finally see the return of the national pastime, "As Washingtonian baseball fans, we need to remember how truly lucky we are. For years our city was without a baseball team to call our own. Many, like myself, grew up rooting for out of market teams just so we could have baseball in our lives. Then in 2005 we were given the gift of baseball from the MLB, and as recipients of any gift we should be both grateful and mindful. Grateful to the MLB for choosing our city, and mindful to the sacrifices made to make that happen. Montreal fans had their passion taken from them...the Nationals owe it to Expos fans, as well as the city of Montreal to recognize the history of their franchise."

MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling, who covered the Nats beat for the Washington Times' Sports section before joining MASN, recently researched and wrote a children's book on the Montreal Expos' history, and I asked Mr. Goessling if the time he spent examining the franchise's roots changed his opinion one way or the other as to whether or not the Nats should acknowledge their past and the role that Andre Dawson played in the history of the team:

"It didn't change my mind so much as it made me realize just how sad the history of the franchise is. This is a team that's been defined by missed opportunities - the Blue Monday game in 1981, the 1994 team, the 2003 squad that didn't get September call-ups, etc. - and though I wish the Nationals would give some nod to their Montreal roots, I can understand why they don't. It's not as though there's a World Series in their past to recognize. As for Dawson, he's definitely a big part of that history; he was one of the best players on that 1981 team. But the Expos never put it together with him, and he left right about the time they were ready to make a run again. To go from the Expos to the Cubs and Red Sox, and then retire from the Marlins a year before they won a title...well, maybe Dawson understands the Expos' story a little too well."

Mr. Goessling's colleague at MASNSports.com, Phil Wood, has been one of the most eloquent voices of opposition to the idea of recognizing the Expos' past of the franchise in the nation's capital, as he expressed in an article entitled, "'Spos Not", in which he noted that while Frank Howard's number 33 hasn't been worn by any player in DC since baseball's return, both Dawson's number 10 and Tim Raines' number 30, which the Expos retired, have been handed out to Nationals' players. In the article, Mr. Woods also recounts a phone call with a member of the Federal Baseball community who called in to the "Nationals Talk Live" post game show to ask for the writer's take on whether or not the Expos' past should be a part of the Nationals' present: 

"I replied as I have many times: I don't see much reason to do it. When the franchise moved to Washington in 2005 and left the name "Expos" in Montreal, I think they left behind that legacy. Yes, the Expos had some outstanding players in their 1969-2004 history; but not many Washington-area baseball fans can really relate to that. Heck, the number of area fans who still relate to the Senators is dwindling, but they still far outnumber Expos' aficionados in the mid-Atlantic."

So that's where we're left, right where it's been since the franchise pulled up it's roots and relocated to the nation's capital. Andre Dawson will go into the Hall of Fame as potentially the last Montreal Expos' player to receive the honor and wear the cap unless Tim Raines' support for election increases dramatically or Vladimir Guerrero's or maybe Larry Walker's Montreal beginnings warrant their donning the tri-color cap upon induction...but after that the history of the Expos' contribution to baseball's story will exist only in the Nats' record books, where eventually those marks will be surpassed and the Expos' past of the franchise will be relegated to maybe two, three or four plaques on the wall in Cooperstown. Unless, of course, the Nationals choose to fully embrace their past...Inviting Mr. Dawson to the nation's capital and Nationals Park is a great first step.

eMb - The Montreal Expos existed.

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