Andre Dawson of the Chicago Cubs became the first member of a last-place team to be named Most Valuable Player when he won the National League award yesterday.

Dawson, a free agent whom no club bid for last winter, led the majors with 137 runs batted in and tied for the home run lead with 49. He beat St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith by a 269-193 margin in voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

"I tried to be realistic and not hold out too much hope," said Dawson, who admitted he thought the Cubs' poor finish could hurt his chances. "I'm thrilled despite a pretty dismal season by the ball club."

Jack Clark, Smith's teammate on the National League champion St. Louis team that finished 18 1/2 games ahead of Chicago, was third with 186. Montreal's Tim Wallach was fourth and San Francisco's Will Clark was fifth. Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian of Philadelphia finished 16th.

Dawson and the two Clarks were the only players named on all 24 ballots. Two association members in each of the 12 NL cities were eligible to vote.

Dawson came to the Cubs this spring, handing a blank contract to then-general manager Dallas Green. The Cubs, burned by multimillion-dollar free agents' contracts in the past, filled in the amount of $500,000. Only Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston had a lower salary on the team.

But Dawson, 33, prospered with his best year while the Cubs struggled along at 76-85. Dawson batted .287 and played well in right field and surpassed his previous top numbers of 32 home runs and 113 RBI, both in 1983 with Montreal.

Dawson tied Oakland rookie Mark McGwire for the major league homer lead. He joined Ernie Banks and Chuck Klein as the only players from losing teams to win the MVP award.