Dawson sets record with five intentional walks

Written by: Craig Muder

At 35 years old, Andre Dawson was just six years away from retirement. But the Chicago Cubs slugger was still – by the numbers – the most dangerous slugger in the game.

On May 22, 1990, the Cincinnati Reds issued Dawson five intentional walks in one game to set a new big league standard. The five bases on balls came in a game that lasted 16 innings, and Dawson still managed to 1-for-3 at the plate in his three official at-bats.

The previous record for intentional passes in one game was four by Roger Maris and Garry Templeton. And though intentional walks have only been tracked since 1955, it was still a remarkable show of respect for the always dangerous Dawson.

“What did I do to deserve that?” Dawson said after the game.

One day earlier, Dawson was named the National League’s Player of the Week after hitting .428 with five home runs and 15 RBI in seven games. At the close of play on May 22, Dawson was hitting .346 with 13 homers and 41 RBI.

“Hey, I don’t need to tell you that he’s been hot,” Reds manager Lou Piniella told the Associated Press. “And it’s not like this is the first time the guy has been on fire. So I figured, if somebody else is going to beat us, fine. But not him.”

Dawson hit cleanup that day for the Cubs, and the fifth-place hitter – Lloyd McClendon – finished the day 0-for-6. But following Dawson’s fifth intentional walk in the bottom of the 16th inning, Dave Clark – who had pinch-hit for McClendon in the 14th inning – singled home Ryne Sandberg to give the Cubs a 2-1 victory.

It was a rare time in 1990 that Piniella’s game strategy proved ineffective. Even after the loss, the Reds’ record stood at 26-10. Cincinnati would lead the National League West wire to wire that season before defeating the Pirates in the NLCS and winning the World Series against the Oakland Athletics.

Dawson would finish the season with a big league-best 21 intentional walks to go along with a .310 batting average, 27 home runs and 100 RBI. Coming off surgery on his right knee following the 1989 campaign, Dawson proved he had not reached the end of the line.

“(Others) don’t know the anguish of rehabbing a knee,” Dawson said. “They don’t know how hard it is, how frustrating it is to be pitched around all the time. They don’t know what makes you tick.”

When he retired following the 1996 season, Dawson had totaled 438 home runs, 1,591 RBI and 143 intentional walks.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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