What do MLB players do when they retire? Some go into broadcasting. Some return to the dugout as coaches.
And some slip quietly into the shadows, spending their days driving hearses, carrying caskets and mopping floors at a funeral home.
Or at least that’s what, unbeknownst to most, Hall of Famer Andre Dawson has been doing for the last 10 years, as detailed in a USA Today story by Bob Nightengale.
Retired since 1996, the former Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins outfielder is most known for his eight-time All-Star career on the diamond, where he set countless Expos records, piled up more than 300 home runs and stolen bases, and racked up eight Gold Glove honors. But since walking away from baseball on hobbled knees, Dawson, who has undergone 14 knee surgeries, has taken a liking to a more anonymous role of owning Paradise Memorial Funeral Home alongside his wife, Vanessa, in Richmond Heights, Florida.
For Dawson, Nightengale writes, the job is not so much tragic as it is purposeful.
“The Hawk” has also had his name attached to front office roles with the Cubs and Marlins in recent years, but it’s at Paradise Memorial, where he “does everything but embalm the bodies in the holding room” and apparently finds peace and perspective amid more than 100 funeral services each year.
“You never know where God is going to lead you,” Dawson told Nightengale, “but wherever it leads you, you have to be prepared. When this first fell into my lap, I prayed on it. I thought, ‘How am I really going to pull this off without having the background, or knowing anything really about the industry?’ But I wanted to make this as good a facility as I possibly could, and I’m proud of it. It’s important to me because this is a product the community needs.”
That doesn’t mean any of Paradise Memorial customers, let alone former MLB companions, are any less surprised when they either see Dawson around the home or hear that he’s running it.
“Rickey Henderson just looked at me,” Dawson said, per Nightengale, “with his eyes wide open.”