- SS, LF, OF, 2B, CF, DH, 1B, 3B, RF
- March 21, 1963
- 6' 1"
- 175 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-09-1985 with CHN
In 1988 and 1990 he joined double-play partner Ryne Sandberg as an All-Star and was a key contributor to the Cubs' NL East division title in 1989, hitting .278 with 20 doubles, 6 triples, 9 home runs, 60 runs batted in and 19 stolen bases. Dunston was a career .269 hitter with 150 home runs and 668 RBI in 1814 games. He seldom walked, so in spite of his decent batting average, his on-base percentage was the second worst of those with at least 4500 plate appearances during his 18 year career. Bill James noted that Dunston was an "eternal rookie, a player who continued until the end of his career to make rookie mistakes." Dunston was known, especially early in his career, for his unusually strong throwing arm at the shortstop position.
At the end of his career, he was used mainly as a fourth outfielder and a role player off the bench. He won the 1996 Willie Mac Award for his spirit and leadership.
Dunston was the first overall pick in the 1982 amateur draft he batted .790 as a senior at Brooklyn's Thomas Jefferson High. A raw talent with a rifle arm, he was Chicago's Opening Day shortstop in 1985, but hit .194 before being sent down on May 15; he was unprepared as a fielder, and made glaring baserunning mistakes. Some felt the Cubs had rushed the wild-swinging youngster after spending 3 ½ seasons in the minors. Other Players Who Debuted in 1985 - Andres Galarraga, Paul O'Neill, Ozzie Guillen, Devon White, Jose Canseco, Cecil Fielder, Teddy Higuera and Todd Worrell. He hit .260 in 74 games in 1985.
Dunston was handed back his job when Larry Bowa was released in August. In 1986, he led NL shortstops in putouts, assists, double plays, errors, and home runs (17). His wild swing limited him to just 21 walks in more than 600 plate appearances. Injuries kept him out two months of 1987, but he was hitting .287 in mid-1988 and won an All-Star spot. He was pulled out of the last game before the break by manager Don Zimmer for reportedly missing three hit-and-run signs.
Despite streakiness, Dunston slowly matured into one of the top shortstops in the National League. He joined double-play partner Ryne Sandberg as an All-Star in 1988 and 1990 and was a key contributor to the Cubs' NL East division title in 1989.
Ignoring Dunston's overly aggressive nature at the plate, Cubs manager Jim Lefebvre toyed with the idea of using him in the leadoff spot in 1992. But while Dunston hit .315, he drew just three walks in seventy-three at-bats, and the experiment ended when he underwent season-ending back surgery in early May. Dunston was lost for the season and was out of commission for virtually all of the 1993 campaign as well.
Dunston returned as the Cubs' everyday shortstop in 1994, but his bad back prevented him from playing too much on artificial turf. 1995 saw him return to form -- his .340 average in late July was second-best in the NL -- but a late slump decreased his value on the free-agent market. He moved to the Giants in 1996, but a brief return to Chicago in 1997 signaled the beginning of a nomadic second career that saw him drift to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis and New York.
In 1997, Dunston walked a shockingly low eight times all season, tying Doug Flynn for the fewest walks in a full season, post-WWII (450 or more at-bats). In 1999 he had an even lower ratio of walks per 100 plate appearances, getting 2 walks in 255 appearances.
By the turn of the century Dunston was being used mainly as a fourth outfielder and a role player off the bench -- still preferring to don his usual #12, worn in honor of former Met second baseman Ken Boswell.
He never led the league in any major hitting category, but was third in the league in doubles with 37 in 1986. Dunston possessed both a modicum of power and a surplus of speed, stealing 212 bases in his career, with a high of 30 in 1988. Over the course of that career, however, both his HR and stolen base totals were somewhat suppressed by his lack of selectivity at the plate.
Dunston became eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. 75% of the vote was necessary for induction, and 5% was necessary to stay on the ballot. He received 0.2% of the vote and dropped off of the BBWAA ballot.
Dunston never did win a Gold Glove, but then Ozzie Smith was winning the award year after year in those days. Throughout the late eighties and early nineties, however, Dunston was routinely recognized by National League managers as having the strongest infield arm in the league. As longtime Buc scout Howie Haak told Dennis Tuttle in 1997, according to the Pirates' rating system, wherein 30 was an average arm, 35 average-plus, 40 above average, 50 outstanding, and 60 the absolute best, only two players had ever earned that top score - namely, Shawon Dunston and Roberto Clemente. Haak helps put this into perspective by referencing a couple of rifle-armed Pirate prospects of more recent vintage, namely Raul Mondesi and Dave Parker, neither of whom could do better than 40. In Baseball Digest, Dunston won the best infield arm 3 times in 7 seasons.
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