Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Please, Don't Retire His Jersey Number

If Our Washington Nationals want to honor Andre Dawson on August 12th at Nationals Park for his recent induction into The National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, fine. But we don't want to see his Montreal Expos Jersey Number 10 retired forever on South Capitol Street. And that holds true for Gary Carter's Number 8 and Tim Raines' Number 30.

Andre Dawson never played a single regular season game in Washington, D.C. He last played for The Expos 19 years before Major League Baseball relocated the franchise to Washington. D.C. The first eleven years of Andre's Big League career took place in a home stadium north of the American border. As great as he was, Dawson clearly has no ties to The District of Columbia. And in fact, during his Hall Of Fame Induction speech last Sunday, Andre went out of his way to glance over the very city, the very team and very franchise that drafted him, developed him, and gave him every opportunity to start his wonderful Big League Career.

That's Montreal, in Quebec, in the country of Canada.

With a hundred or so diehard to this day Expos Fans on hand in Cooperstown, New York to possibly witness the very last player in Montreal's 36 year Major League history to be enshrined in The Hall Of Fame, Andre Dawson profusely thanked the city of Chicago, The Cubs organization, their fans and Wrigley Field for his six years playing on The North Side. Some of his family members wore Chicago Cubs attire too. No one glorified The Expos.

Not one.

Dawson individually thanked former Montreal teammates Gary Carter, Tim Raines, Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie in his speech, but he didn't single out the city and franchise that gave him his stardom in the game--or their fans either--Montreal. Dawson lumped his final four years of Major League baseball playing for The Florida Marlins and The Boston Red Sox as being just as important as his nearly one dozen years in an Expos uniform. That's telling, especially after Andre Dawson fought The Baseball Hall Of Fame and Museum over being inducted into Cooperstown as a Montreal Expo--only the second player to be so honored (Gary Carter the first).

On August 12th, Our Washington Nationals are going to show respect to Andre Dawson for a great Major League Career and the ultimate honor in baseball, and that's fine. But please, don't retire his jersey number and hang it from the rafters at Nationals Park because at possibly his greatest moment in the game, being immortalized into Cooperstown, Andre Dawson showed little respect for the franchise (The Expos) and the city (Montreal) which launched his Hall Of Fame career.

Years ago, Andre Dawson cut ties with the Montreal/Washington Franchise and he's never looked back at that decision--even after being inducted into The Baseball Hall Of Fame & Museum.

And that's a shame.

P.S. The Minnesota Twins have never retired a single jersey number of an Original Washington Senators player. They don't even recognize Walter Johnson on their Hall Of Fame players list. The Texas Rangers have worn Expansion Senators retro jerseys in the past, but they've never honored Frank Howard. The Baltimore Orioles don't usually recognize The St. Louis Browns, but they fully acknowledge that Hall of Famer John McGraw was their manager in 1901 and 1902. The very team that is now The New York Yankees. The history should remain with the city in which it was made--not in some far away land where the fans have little or no recollection of the facts. That's why there are groups like The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society and The Baseball Hall Of Fame & Museum--so the past will never be forgotten.

Photo Credit--Jim McIsaac (Getty Images)


Another Josh said...

I've always thought it was lousy that the Nationals failed to bring along the Expos' retired numbers. Sure, it was a different city, but it is the same franchise.

The Dodgers still have retired Ray Campanella's number, the Braves honor Eddie Mathews, and the Giants remember a lot of their NY greats (Christy Mathewson, who didn't have a number to retire, as well as owner John McGraw, Carl Hubbell, Mel Ott, Bill Terry, Monte Irvin). These are old franchises with history. The Nationals apparently don't want to have history, they seem to run away from it.

Sure, Dawson, Carter, and Raines played in another city, but without them playing for the Expos in Montreal, Washington wouldn't even have a team now, we'd all still be heading up to Baltimore to see games. They were great players who achieved enough to have their numbers retired, and now that honor is fading away just because the team moved.

I say don't retire Dawson's number, just reinstate his previous number retirement.

TBC said...

If they retire Dawson's or Carter's or Raines's numbers, they would need to simultaneously retire Hall of Famer Frank Robinson's #20, which he actually wore in Washington while managing the Nationals and playing against the Senators as a visiting opponent. I don't believe any of those three ex-Expos ever played a game in DC as an opponent, let alone a member of a Washington team, did they?

Perhaps the Nats should retire Expos numbers 8, 10 and 30 in a display somewhere in the ballpark (other than in the outfield by retired #42) and have that be the tribute to Expos history that some people feel is lacking here. They would of course continue to issue Nationals numbers 8, 10 and 30 until some Nat who wears one of them merits having his number retired.

Screech's Best Friend said...

TBC: Dawson, Carter and Raines all ended their careers well before The Expos moved to Washington. There was an exhibition game at RFK in the late 80's or early 90's featuring The Expos, but I don't recall, or remember, if any of them actually played that day.

Honoring The Expos history is fine and I agree with what you state about not retiring the numbers in Washington.

WFY said...

I have zero interest in observing the Montreal Expos. About the only thing they have in common with the Washington Nationals at this point is a spot in the NL East. Celebrating another city's memories is a waste of energy. I'd rather they do more to celebrate the teams that played in Washington. I like the '24, '25 and '33 pennants and the idea of the statues. How about retiring #33 too?

Screech's Best Friend said...

WFY: I would be standing in line first with you to retire Number 33 for Frank Howard. No one deserves the honor more. Of course, that number has never been used in a regular season game by any member of Our Washington Nationals either. Larry Broadway wore 33 in spring training a few years back.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Thank you! I've gotten into HUGE arguments with some members of the Nats MLB board (most notably "Richmindc") who can't understand why fans like me get worked up about Walter Johnson and why the Nats don't put up statues to Dawson and Carter---to these fans, it's the "franchise" that matters and they could care less about anything that happened before 1969. The Montreal Canadiens to their credit have hung up a banner commemorating all the Expos numbers, and that's where I believe they should stay.

I do think that the Nats should retire Frank Robinson's number. The Epos and Nats fans who say, "Hell, no! He was a lousy manager!" miss the point completely. Robinson was like a rock for this team at a time when they were playing "home" games in San juan as well as Montréal, and nobody knew if the franchise would still exist. He encouraged Nationals to take pride in their new city, and set high standards for the team to follow. Unlike some managers (I won't say names) who complained about fans booing, Frank actually said in a press conference (when we lost badly to the Marlins before the Lerners took over) that the fans had the right to boo, and he would have booed as well.

The Mets retired Casey Stengel's number even though statistically, he was the worst manager in baseball history. No Nats manager to date has matched Frank Robinson's win total of 2005---and I don't think he lost 100 games, either.

I do think the Nats should also retire some of the previous team's numbers as well. Not just Frank Howard, but also Bucky Harris, Harmon Killebrew, and Mickey Vernon. I wouldn't have a problem with retiring "9" for both Frank Howard and Ted Williams.
And put up the names for great Nats players like Walter Johnson or Sam Rice who never wore uniform numbers during their playing days.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

I think it's fair that I mention one thing about "richmindc" that I left out. Yes---he thinks the Nats only need honor the 41 years they spent in Montréal/Washington and has no interest in the 70 years Washington had an American League team. However, he's the only other person on the MLB board to support my suggestion that the Nats retire Frank Robinson's number "20". Not for what he did as the last manager of the Expos, and not for what he did as the first manager of the Nationals, but for BOTH.

paul said...

You are as usual ahead of the curve on this one. I thought it was weird that someone had decided to honor Dawson in D.C., but then I went on to some other disturbing news item. . . .