“FENWAY'S BEST PLAYERS”


 
1966-1970
#6   MIKE ANDREWS

From his key contributions as a rookie on the pennant-winning Red Sox of 1967 to his final games spent entangled in one of the most controversial incidents in World Series history, Mike Andrews packed plenty of memorable moments into seven-plus big-league seasons. And while his baseball career may not have lasted as long as he envisioned, it led directly to a second vocation that the former All-Star second baseman considers even more rewarding than playing on two AL championship teams.

As chairman of the Jimmy Fund of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, located less than a mile up Brookline Avenue from Fenway Park, Andrews has spent more than 25 years helping to raise hundreds of millions for research and treatment into childhood and adult cancers. Rather than spin tales of his athletic feats during his many public appearances, he speaks of the dedicated scientists, caregivers, and patients engaged in the cancer fight at Dana-Farber with the "true heroes" whom he first encountered as a rookie.

Andrews is the perfect man for the job. The Jimmy Fund has long been a favorite charity of the Red Sox, and Mike is accustomed to quietly turning in clutch performances that help others shine. All Sox fans worth their weight in Big Yaz Bread knows who led the club in hitting down the stretch of the 1967 American League race, but it's a forgotten footnote that rookie Andrews was second to Carl Yastrzemski among regulars with a .342 batting average during the most pressure-packed September in team history.

 
He's been here so long that many likely assume Andrews is a New England native himself, but he's in fact a Southern California boy. Born on July 9, 1943 in Los Angeles, he grew up in nearby Torrance rooting for the Pacific Coast League's LA Angels and Hollywood Stars.

Andrews got his early big-league fix from television's "Game of the Week," and after the Dodgers fled Brooklyn for the West Coast during his teenage years, he followed the exploits of their pitching aces, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. His athletic genes came from his father, Lloyd, who had played football and basketball at the University of Montana and owned and operated Callahan's Bar in nearby Hermosa Beach. Mike starred in football, baseball, and basketball at South Torrance High.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder initially chose the gridiron, accepting a full scholarship to UCLA that required his attending one year of junior college to complete the necessary foreign language requirement. Andrews earned JC All-American honors as a split end at El Camino College, but then came a life-altering decision for the 18-year-old.

The Pirates and Red Sox had scouted him, and he wanted to marry his high-school sweetheart, Marilyn Flynn, and start a family. Several more years of college football without a paycheck seemed like forever, and Boston scout Joe Stephenson was offering him a cash bonus of $12,000 plus $4,000 more if he made the big-league roster. Andrews took it in December 1961, got engaged early the next spring, and shortly thereafter reported to Boston's Class A club in Olean, New York.


Like many young prospects, Mike's first taste of professional baseball was humbling. All around him on the '62 Olean squad were other former high-school hot shots. Perhaps his self-deprecating attitude took the pressure off at the plate, as Andrews hit .299 with 12 homers and 89 runs scored in 114 games as the club's starting shortstop.

Moved up the chain to Winston-Salem for 1963, he hit just .255 there, but .323 after a midseason switch to Single-A Waterloo. He cut his combined error total at short by nearly 50 percent, and Sox brass boosted him again to Reading the next year. Mike batted .295, raised his fielding percentage again, and in 1965 while still just 21 years old and earned an invitation to Red Sox spring training in Scottsdale from new manager Billy Herman.

Farmed out for the regular season to Triple-A Toronto, the top of Boston's minor-league ladder, he had a disappointing (.246, 4 homers) year toiling for a fiery young manager named Dick Williams. It was Williams who played a part in Andrews' winter-league switch to second base (Rico Petrocelli already held the starting shortstop slot in Boston), and Mike excelled when he returned to Toronto for a second season in 1966. He played solid defensively at his new position, boosted both his batting average (to .267) and home run output (to 14) considerably, and led the International League in runs scored with 97.

The performance earned Andrews a September call-up to the ninth-place Red Sox, where he started five games in the waning days of the season. He batted seventh in his first major league contest, against his hometown Angels at Fenway Park on September 18, and went 0-for-4 with a run scored. His next action came a week later at New York, and on September 24 he notched his first big-league hit with a single off Fritz Peterson at Yankee Stadium in a 1-0 Sox loss.

 
After Herman was fired and Williams named Red Sox manager for 1967, the new skipper announced before spring training that the starting second base job was "Andrews' to lose." Mike had hurt his lower back lifting weights in the off-season, however, and the lingering injury affected his defensive range in exhibition play. The tough-talking Williams was not sympathetic.

"We can't wait any longer," the manager stated flatly after two Andrews errors on March 26. "He has a bad back and he can't bend. If he can't bend, he can't play." Even though Mike had notched a five-hit game and was batting close to .400 in Winter Haven, Williams announced that day that he was moving fellow Southern Californian rookie Reggie Smith from outfield to second base and putting Andrews on the bench.

This was still the arrangement when the regular season started two weeks later, but it didn't last much longer. Smith had his own defensive troubles at second, while the center field platoon of Jose Tartabull and George Thomas that replaced him was batting less than .200. On April 19, with Andrews' back improving, Williams reinstated Smith in center and Mike at second. With very few exceptions, Mike Andrews would be the Red Sox' starting second baseman for the next four years.

Once he got his chance Andrews made the most of it. He hit .321 during the rest of April, and settled in with Petrocelli to provide strong middle-infield defense for the surprising Red Sox. On April 25 he hit his first major league home run, a three-run shot off the Senators' Pete Richert in a 9-3 Boston victory at DC Stadium. Later in the same contest, he had his first big-league stolen base and scored on a Carl Yastrzemski double.

A solid May (.281, including an 11-for-18 stretch) followed for Mike and featured the team's first trip to his home state for a series with the Angels. A huge contingent of 90 family members and friends made the 45-minute drive to Anaheim on two buses originating from his dad's bar, and Andrews received rousing applause from the sign-waving group even when he drew a walk in one of the games, thus earning him several weeks of ribbing from his teammates. A home run followed the next day, however, and Mike would go on to enjoy several more clutch performances in front of his biggest fans over the years (including another homer at Anaheim later in the season). Briefly in May, the rookie was among the American League's top 10 in hitting.

His batting average dropped off in the months to come, but even while dipping below .250 from June through August, Andrews was consistently in the thick of things as the Red Sox and their fans enjoyed Boston's first true pennant race in more than a decade. Most often used as a leadoff man in front of the likes of Tony Conigliaro, Yastrzemski, and George Scott, he also hit quite often in the second, seventh, and eighth slots and was effective in each position.

July offered a prime example of Mike's value; he batted just .236, but scored 18 runs in as many games to help the team to a 15-3 stretch. He was a key man in a 10-game winning streak from July 14-23 that many signal as the turning point of the season, with two hits (including a three-run homer) in a 6-4 win at Baltimore July 19 and three more safeties (with another homer) in a 4-0 shutout at Cleveland on July 22 that drew Boston within a half-game of first-place Chicago. Happy with Andrews' contributions, owner Tom Yawkey quietly gave him a mid-season salary boost from $11,000 to $15,000.

By August, with a four-team scramble under way for the AL lead, every game was a huge one, and Andrews continued to deliver. On August 1-3 he went a combined 7-for-12 with two homers, five RBI and five runs scored over three contests (the Red Sox won two), and all told had eight multi-hit games during the month. This was just a warm-up for September, when he hit a phenomenal .342 (25-for-73) and along with Yastrzemski and Dalton Jones kept the team in the hunt while others slumped. Mike was actually well over .400 for the month until an 0-for-9 skein prompted Williams to sit him in favor of veteran Jerry Adair for several games down the stretch.

Then, with the Sox needing to sweep Minnesota in two games on the season's final weekend for a chance at the pennant, Andrews came through again. On Saturday he was 2 for 3 in the leadoff slot with a key infield single ahead of Yaz's game-breaking three-run homer, and after starting on the bench in Sunday's finale, he played a significant defensive role subbing for Adair after Jerry suffered a spike wound to his leg while turning an eighth-inning double play. Two straight Minnesota hits immediately brought the tying run to the plate in a 5-2 game, and Bob Allison hit a hard liner off Jim Lonborg into the left-field corner for what looked like a double and two RBI. The shot did score one run, but it also became the inning's third out when Yastrzemksi threw a bullet to Andrews just in time for a sweeping tag on the sliding Allison.

Now down 5-3, the Twins got the leadoff man on in the ninth, but Mike turned a clutch "tag 'em out, throw 'em out" double-play on a Rod Carew grounder to set the stage for Petrocelli's catch of Rich Rollins' popup and the bedlam that followed. Andrews and Scott were the first to reach pitching hero Lonborg, and managed to hoist him to their shoulders for a few moments before thousands of charging fans turned the team's celebration into the city's.

All told, Mike finished the regular season with a .263 average, 8 homers, and 40 RBI in 142 games after his late start. He also led the league with 18 sacrifice hits, and was runner-up to Rookie of the Year Carew among second basemen in voting by major-league players, managers, and coaches for the Topps All-Star Rookie Team.

Dick Williams again benched Andrews in favor of Adair during the first four games against the St. Louis Cardinals. Adair went 2-for-16, however, and after two pinch-hitting appearances (and one hit) Mike was back in the starting lineup for Game 5 -- where he remained the rest of the series. He wound up batting .308, but the Sox and a weary Lonborg lost to Cards ace Bob Gibson in the seventh game.

Reality hit hard in 1968, as the team fell to a distant fourth place and the offensive output for many Boston hitters dropped off markedly. Andrews was an exception. In the "Year of the Pitcher," during which Yastrzemski was the only everyday AL player to hit .300 for the season, Mike battled for the league batting lead up until Labor Day before finishing at .271 (12th in the circuit) with 7 homers and 45 RBI. He also topped his rookie totals with 22 doubles and 145 hits, and his tiny dip from 79 runs scored to 77 was much more a factor of Tony Conigliaro's yearlong absence due to his horrific '67 beaning and George Scott's anemic .171 average than a sophomore slump. After a few crucial errors early in the season Andrews was steady on defense, and he was developing into a team leader. Boston sportswriters named him the club's "Unsung Hero" for the season.

Off the field, Andrews was shining as well. During his rookie year, he had become aware of the Jimmy Fund's status as the team's official charity. Its billboard in right field was the only one allowed at Fenway Park by owner Tom Yawkey for years, and along with his teammates voted a full 1967 World Series share to the charity. Like other players, he also periodically met with young cancer patients brought to Fenway by then-Jimmy Fund Executive Director Bill Koster. One day such a visit gave him a reality check of a different kind.

"I was busy warming up, but I spent a few minutes with the kid, who was a Little League star looking forward to playing the next year after his treatment was done," recalls Andrews. "I wished him luck. Bill came up to me afterwards and said, 'Thanks, Mike. That meant a lot. There isn't much we can do for that boy. We're sending him home.' That made me realize that an 0-for-4 day at the plate really doesn't mean too much in the scheme of things."

Andrews became a Jimmy Fund regular and in 1968 was named "Man of the Year" by the Bosox Club (the team's official fan club) for "contributions to the success of the Red Sox and for cooperation in community endeavors." He didn't know it at the time, but the seeds of his future career had been planted.

Mike made Bobby Doerr look prophetic in '69. Now batting second in Boston's lineup more often than leadoff, he firmly established himself as one of the most productive second basemen in the majors when healthy. He had a .293 average (10th in the league), 15 homers, and 59 RBI despite missing nearly 40 games in mid-season after being hit in the hand by Minnesota pitcher Dave Boswell and suffering a blood clot that required extensive treatment. When a bad back kept Baltimore's Davey Johnson from going to the All-Star Game, Mike took his place and backed up starting second baseman Rod Carew. (Andrews played the last four innings for the American League and grounded out off Jerry Koosman in his only plate appearance.) Unfortunately, the Red Sox were again unable to recapture the magic of two years earlier, and with a third-place finish assured, Dick Williams was fired in the waning days of the season.

The young lineup that was expected to lead the Red Sox to several pennants was still quite potent -- Boston's 203 home runs in 1970 led all big-league clubs -- but without the pitching to compete with the Baltimore Orioles, it was not enough. Back atop the batting order exclusively, Andrews reached new offensive heights himself that summer. He had 28 doubles, 17 homers, and 65 RBI, and led off four games with homers -- giving him eight leadoff clouts in his career (still third on the team's all-time list). He also topped AL second basemen with 19 errors, but even if management had big changes in store after a second straight third-place finish, Mike's spot with the club seemed safe.

On December 1, however, one day after Dick O'Connell was quoted saying "Andrews is not available for trade," Mike and backup shortstop Luis Alvarado were sent to the woeful Chicago White Sox for Luis Aparicio, a future Hall of Famer. He would later joke in his self-deprecating style that "at least I was traded for a Hall-of-Famer, even if he was 55 at the time" (Aparicio was actually 36), but the move "crushed" Mike who had a wife and three young kids happily settled in the Peabody house where he and Marilyn would live until 2004. The majority of fans interviewed were also upset, both because of Andrews' reputation as a heady, tough athlete and Aparicio's age.

After retiring and still popular in New England, he took a position as an agent with the Mass Mutual Insurance Company and followed the big-league exploits of his brother Rob, a second baseman with the Astros and Giants from 1975 to 1979. Then he received a surprising phone call from Ken Coleman, the former Red Sox broadcaster who had come back to Boston from the Cincinnati Reds to resume his duties as the team's radio voice and take over as executive director of the Jimmy Fund.

"Mike had always been helpful to the Jimmy Fund during his days with the Red Sox, and he was the type of intelligent and personable individual whom I thought could be a great asset as we attempted to grow our fundraising program," Coleman recalled shortly before his death in 2003. "We needed more people, and he was at the top of my list."

Signing on as Coleman's assistant director part time in 1979, Andrews needed just a few months to realize "this is what I wanted to do" and give up insurance altogether. He succeeded Coleman as the charity's director in 1984.

Today Mike can still often be seen at Fenway Park for Jimmy Fund events and check presentations. He participated in both the Ted Williams memorial in 2002 (which benefited Dana-Farber) and the World Series ring ceremony on Opening Day of 2005, and delights in showing his own 2004 championship ring to young Jimmy Fund Clinic patients. The 18-hour WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon has become a staple of New England's summer fundraising calendar, and in 2006 raised nearly $3 million during its 18-plus hours on the air live from Fenway. His popularity as the public face of the charity led to Boston Sports Review magazine naming Andrews one of the city's most powerful sports figures. Forty years after his rookie exploits, Mike Andrews is still helping make Impossible Dreams come true.