The MLB Players Association named Cubs great and Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson the inaugural recipient of the Curt Flood Award on Thursday.
The honor is the latest addition to the MLBPA's Players Choice Awards, going to a former player, living or deceased, "who in the image of Flood demonstrated a selfless, longtime devotion to the Players Association and advancement of Players’ rights.”
Flood's lawsuit against MLB in 1970, which he lost in 1972, was pivotal to eventually overturning the league's reserve clause and opening the era of free agency.
Dawson was a top free agent during a time of collusion among big league clubs. The longtime Expo, then a three-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glover, wanted to sign elsewhere due to chronic knee ailments brought on by playing on Montreal's AstroTurf.
Unsigned into 1987 spring training, Dawson handed the Cubs a blank check, signing for $500K. The offer was half of what the Expos offered him.
“Myself, my agent, we did some creative thinking and we devised a plan," Dawson said in a video released Thursday. "I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be as a result. I guess I made the decision, it’s not about the monetary issues; it’s about pride and principle moving forward.”
Said Hall of Famer and MLBPA special advisor Dave Winfield: "That kind of changed the circumstances, the way people looked at the entire thing that was going on with collusion."
"After he did that, there could be no discussion among any thinking person that the owners were acting properly," added Donald Fehr, MLBPA executive director from 1983-2009.
Dawson went on to win the 1987 NL MVP, making five straight All-Star teams on the North Side. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010.
A panel of former and current MLBPA executives voted between Dawson, Don Baylor, Mark Belanger and Jim Bunning for the honor.