Dawson confident he can adapt to life in Boston, and have a Monster year

December 10, 1992|By Nick Cafardo | Nick Cafardo,Boston Globe

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- He didn't have a chance to think about th racial climate in Boston, the little nooks and crannies of the right-field corner at Fenway Park, or coming to a league he's never played in before and all the little things, other than money, that go into a decision to move from the comfort of one city, one league, one lifestyle, to an uncharted area.

He didn't have an opportunity to consider his next homer will be his 400th and he's a mere 75 RBI from the usual Hall of Fame qualifier, 1,500. And that if he stays healthy, with the Green Monster, he'll achieve those milestones in Boston.

Andre Dawson claimed he didn't have time to think about any of those things.

"I was surprised the Red Sox came in as quickly as they did," said The Hawk in a telephone interview from his home near Miami. "It was the aggressiveness of the Red Sox that got me excited about going there. I'm just excited and thrilled that an organization showed me the decency they did."

Not to mention $9.3 million spread over two years, which is what the Sox gave the 38-year-old free agent to sign with them yesterday.

Dawson had decided to sever his relationship with the Cubs after six years, which included his spectacular MVP performance in 1987, when he clubbed 49 homers and drove in 137 runs. He was upset at the Cubs' two-year, $7 million offer, feeling his loyalty was worthy of the same pay given others who still produce at his clip -- 22 homers, 90 RBI last season -- despite his constantly ailing knees.

He was considering the White Sox, who he said made a similar offer to the Cubs, because he wanted to stay in Chicago. The White Sox were big players because his best friend is Tim Raines.

Raines once said that he would never play in the racial climate of Boston. Evidently, those reservations are not shared by Dawson.

"If you don't go looking for things, you don't find them," said Dawson. "It's a new life for me and adjustment to a new league. I'm going to feel my

way around, and all that other stuff doesn't enter into my thinking."

Dawson's place in Red Sox history was solidified when Mark McGwire's agent, Bob Cohen, called general manager Lou Gorman yesterday and asked for a meeting. Gorman asked Cohen if he would lower his request from five years and $30 million or three years and $19 million. The answer was no.

After this impasse, the Sox adjusted their sights to The Hawk, who will likely hit cleanup in Boston, replacing Jack Clark, who seems headed out of town soon.

Even though the hit on Dawson was quick, the Red Sox have been deluged by Hawk reports since midsummer by Don Zimmer, who managed him with the Cubs.

"If you don't like Andre Dawson, you don't like your wife," Zimmer said.

"What you're talking about here is a high-class individual who puts up numbers in a quiet way," Zimmer added. "He doesn't say more than two words, and you talk about courage. I don't know a player who would put himself through what Dawson puts himself through. He's got to bandage those knees twice a day."

So how will Dawson fit?

The Red Sox plan to use him in right field for at least 120 games if Dawson's knees hold up. He has the option of being the designated hitter, and Dawson said, "I've said all along that I want to play the field. The American League will be an advantage for me because I can DH and still remain in the lineup. I'll have occasional flare-ups in my knees where I get swelling and soreness, but I've learned to play with that. I expect to play every day."

Zimmer thinks Dawson could hit at least 30 homers at Fenway. "He'll get it up in the net, and they didn't have too many people who could do that last year."

Dawson will have to play one of the toughest right fields in baseball, which requires more mobility than other ballparks.

"I don't know too much about right field in Boston," he said. "I did play there once in an exhibition game, but I won't be intimidated by the Green Monster. I'm going to do what I've done my whole career and hit the ball where it's pitched."

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