day 10: the hawk

Today is 10 days, which is one week and three days of the omer: tiferet she’big’vurah.

I’m not totally sure why day 10 has given me such fits, but I had a hard time deciding whom I should highlight today. Chipper Jones, Phil Rizzuto, Miguel Tejada, Lefty Grove — but I’m finally happy with Expos and Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson for this day of “splendor within strength.”

Dawson is an eight-time All-Star, eight-time Golden Glove winner, four-time Silver Slugger Award, NL MVP, and NL Rookie of the Year. It’s easy enough to see Dawson’s splendor. He’s probably the greatest Expo in the club’s 35-year history. He was known for his incredible work ethic and study of the game, often seen in the dugout with a clipboard in-hand documenting pitches and pitcher tendencies (long before this practice and this information were commonplace).

As a particularly poignant paean to a career at the end of the era of old-school stars notes, “Everything he did on the diamond, from his vicious swing to his rocket arm, looked easy and elegant.” In May 1990 the Reds were so sure that he was going to destroy them, and easily, that they walked him a record five times in 16 innings. They weren’t wrong. A few years earlier at Wrigley Field, he hit three home runs — including two literally out of the park — driving in all of the runs that day: Dawson 5, Phillies 3. (By the way, before that hot summer day, the last time Dawson hit three home runs in one game was also at Wrigley Field, but as an Expo against the Cubs.)

But for this project, what really moves me about Dawson is what happened after he retired to his childhood home of Miami: He opened a funeral home.

There is no mitzvah more important than caring for the dead. And attending to mourners follows directly. Last year he told AARP Magazine:

There are no cheering crowds for me now, just people bearing the heaviest weight anyone can bear. My job now is just to be there for them and to help them get through. This work has taught me that tomorrow is not guaranteed. I’ve learned how to help people transition through the most difficult period of their lives. I’ve learned how to run an enterprise that’s a vital part of a community. And I have the satisfaction of giving something back to the area where I grew up. I’m proud of what I did on the baseball diamond. But this is who I am now.

For his elegance and strength on the field, and for his strength and poise off the field, let’s count day 10 in honor of The Hawk.

featured image: Rick Stewart/Getty Images

 

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