The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 7, 1985-1989)
by Paul Semendinger
March 15, 2021
Of note – My research for this project took me to the wonderful site Baseball Almanac where I was able to access the list of all the James P. Dawson winners in Yankees history. I also used Baseball-Reference for the players’ statistics.
In 1956, the Yankees began awarding the James P. Dawson Award to the best rookie in Spring Training.
I began to wonder how many of these players went on to successful careers with the Yankees or other teams.
Here I continue my examination of that important award and the players who earned it.
James P. Dawson was a longtime Yankees’ reporter with the New York Times. He served as the Chairman of the New York Chapter of the BBWAA.
It was very difficult to find an image of the award itself and it seems there is no actual trophy. Rather, it seems that the player is given a watch. Here is an auction from 2013 that highlights Johnny James’ watch. This photo shows Masahiro Tanaka being presented with a watch as well. In 2018, Miguel Andujar tweeted this photo of him earning his watch. The cover image on our home page is cropped from this Tweet.
The 1985-1989 Award Winners
1985 – Scott Bradley
Scott Bradley was a highly touted rookie. A left-handed hitting catcher who could also play outfield. He was a player who had a lot of promise.
In 1984, in a small cameo, he batted .286 in 9 games. Things were looking good.
After winning the award, in 1985, Bradley played in just 19 games hitting only .163.
After that season, he was part of the trade with the Chicago White Sox that netted the Yankees Ron Hassey. (This was the second time the Yankees traded for Ron Hassey).
Bradley went on to play for the White Sox, the Seattle Mariners, and the Cincinnati Reds. Bradley played seven years with the Mariners and did well. He hit .302 for Seattle in 1986. Two other times he batted in the .270’s.
In 1990, he caught a no-hitter pitched by Randy Johnson.
All-Time WAR = -1.5
1986 – Bob Tewksbury
Bob Tewksbury was another of the young pitchers in the 1980s who the Yankees let get away – or, more accurately, gave away.
In 1986, he showed great promise going 9-5, 3.31 in 23 games (20 starts). A 1-4 start in 1987 saw him shipped off to the Chicago Cubs in the infamous deal for Steve Trout.
He signed with the Cardinals for the 1989 season and had some nice years there. In 1992, he went 16-5, 2.16, was an All-Star, and was third in the N.L. Cy Young voting. He won 17 games in 1993.
Overall, Bob Tewksbury pitched in 302 games going 110-102, 3.92.
All-Time WAR = 21.2
1987 – Keith Hughes
Keith Hughes played in four games as a Yankee. He went 0-for-4.
Hughes ended up playing for five Major League clubs, but each stop was a brief one:
Phillies (37 games) .263
Orioles (41 games) .194
Mets (8 games) .000
Reds (3 games) .000
All-Time WAR = -1.3
1988 – Al Leiter
Al Leiter was one of the pitchers I was most excited for as he came through the Yankees’ system. I predicted greatness for him. I thought he was the future ace for the Yankees.
He was a future ace. He became great, or at least very (very) good, just not for the Yankees.
From 1987 to 1989, Al Leiter went 7-8 as a Yankee. In April 1989, he was traded for Jesse Barfield.
Leiter battled arm problems, but by the mid 1990s, he put it all together. He was a two time All-Star. He pitched a no-hitter. From 1996 to 2004, pitching for the Florida Marlins and the New York Mets, he went 122-88, 3.44.
Leiter was on the World Champion Blue Jays (1993) and Marlins (1997). The Yankees defeated his NY Mets in 2000.
Leiter finished his career with the Yankees going 4-5, 5.49 in 2005.
All-Time WAR = 42.5 (3rd best all-time of the Dawson Award winners thus far, see below)
1989 – No Selection Made
Highest All-Time WAR of Players Highlighted (thus far) In This Series:
Willie Randolph 65.9
Roy White 46.8
Al Leiter 42.5
Don Mattingly 42.4
Jose Rijo 35.0
Tom Tresh 22.0
Bob Tewksbury 21.2
Norm Seibern 21.0
Tony Kubek 18.4
Jim Beattie 14.8