Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look at the career of Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson, whose ability at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field made him one of the best all-around players of his generation.
Andre Nolan Dawson was born in Miami in 1954, the oldest of eight children. It was apparent at a young age that he was destined for athletic stardom. Dawson was gifted in multiple sports, but a football injury in high school caused him to set his focus on baseball.
Dawson, nicknamed The Hawk for his sharp eyes at the plate, went on to play at Florida A&M University. The Expos selected him in the 11th round of the 1975 Draft, and after rising through Montreal's farm system, he made an impact as soon as he arrived on the Major League scene.
In 1977, his first full Major League season, Dawson was named the National League Rookie of the Year after slashing .282/.326/.474 with 19 home runs and 21 steals in 139 games. He belted 25 homers in each of the next two seasons, and by 1981 was named a National League All-Star for the first time.
Dawson slugged .553 with 24 homers and 26 steals in the strike-shortened 1981 season, also winning the second of eight career Gold Glove Awards and finishing as runner-up in NL Most Valuable Player voting to Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt. The Expos reached the NL Championship Series that season, but lost to the Dodgers in five games.
Dawson continued to produce at the plate, and in 1983 slashed .299/.338/.539 with 32 homers and 25 steals, again finishing runner-up in NL MVP voting (to Braves center fielder Dale Murphy).
Following an 11-season career with the Expos, Dawson signed a free-agent contract with the Cubs in 1987. He had a huge season for Chicago, slugging .568 with 49 home runs to tie the Athletics' Mark McGwire for the MLB lead. Dawson was the NL MVP that season, becoming the first player on a last-place team to win the award.
Dawson was an All-Star each year from 1987-91, helping the Cubs reach the NLCS in 1989. Following the '92 season, he spent two seasons with the Red Sox, then two with the Marlins before retiring in 1996.
Dawson was an eight-time All-Star, hit 438 home runs and, despite several knee surgeries throughout his career, stole 314 bases over 21 seasons. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.