RIP to Fred Andrews, who played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1976 and 1977. It was reported by his sister and his high school that he died on December 20 at the age of 69. No location or cause of death was immediately available. His memorial service was held in Chicago on December 29.
Fred Andrews was born in Lafayette, La., on May 4, 1952. As he later told columnist Ray Kelly, he had challenges in his youth that made any baseball-related difficulties pale by comparison. He grew up in low-income housing in Chicago in an area that was controlled by a gang called the Blackstone Rangers. Andrews and some of his baseball friends refused to join the gang or pay tribute — and it was a stand that almost got Andrews killed.
“Oh, I had a few scares. Even dodged a bullet or two,” he later said. “Whenever I feel like I’m getting nervous down here [in the minor leagues], I think about those days. Believe me, it helps.”
He went to Lincoln Heights High School in Lincoln Heights, Ohio (a suburb of Cincinnati), and the baseball team won the state title in his senior year of 1970. He was a big part of the 5-3 win over Pettisville in the championship game, too. He had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run, and he made back-to-back sensational plays at shortstop. Andrews grabbed a ground ball behind second place to turn a single into a double play, and then he made a diving stop of a grounder to the left of second base to get the third out of the inning.
“I’m hoping to play major league baseball. That’s been my wish almost all my life,” he told The Cincinnati Enquirer after the game. The Phillies started him on that journey when they selected him in the Eighth Round of the 1970 June Amateur Draft.
Andrews began his professional career with the Pulaski Phillies of the Rookie-Level Appalachian League. He had an impressive debut as the team’s shortstop, hitting .309. As he progressed through the Phillies’ organization, he showed an ability to hit fairly steadily, and he occasionally flashed some good speed as well. He stole 20 bases in just 92 games for Class-A Spartanburg in 1972, for instance. He struggled in his first season of Double-A ball in 1973 — he hit just .227 for Reading. However, Andrews bounced back and batted .273 for the Reading Phillies in 1974 and hit 14 home runs — five more than he had hit in the previous four seasons combined. He also successfully moved to second base. He earned a promotion to Triple-A at the end of the season and was added to the Phillies’ 40-man roster in October.
“Fred really improved this year on turning the double play,” said Reading manager Bob Wellman. “He learned to concentrate at the plate and when he stays back and waits on the ball, he pops it pretty good.”
Andrews had a middling season in 1975, which was his first full season at Triple-A. He had been thought of as a prospect by the team in previous years, but Andrews had a breakout season in 1976 with the Oklahoma City 89ers. In 87 games, he batted .297 and was brought to the majors for the first time in his career. Andrews debuted at second base on September 26 against Montreal. He had an eventful game, too. He walked in his first at-bat against starter Dennis Blair, was hit by a pitch and stole second in his next trip and singled and scored the go-ahead run in his third time to the plate. He finished the season with 4 hits in 6 at-bats with 2 walks and a run scored.
Over the offseason, Phillies second baseman Dave Cash signed as a free agent with Montreal, opening up the position for competition. Manager Paul Owens felt that Andrews was a better fielder than Cash, and an excellent season of winter ball in Venezuela didn’t hurt Andrews’ cause, either.
Ultimately, the Phillies sent Johnny Oates to the Los Angeles Dodgers to acquire second baseman Ted Sizemore. Veteran infielder Davey Johnson also joined the team after a stint in Japan, giving the team two veteran options at second base. Andrews felt the pressure. “I go out there and I try to be composed,” he said during spring training. “I tell myself that if I don’t hit the ball well that particular day, well, maybe I impressed them with my defense.”
The knock on Andrews was that he chased bad pitches. Andrews himself reasoned that he was in no position to be patient at the plate when most of the pitches he saw were bad ones.
“I’m a rookie down here. I know the score,” he said. “If I get a lot of walks and hit .200, people are going to say I’m not ready… but I am ready.”
Andrews broke camp with the Phillies as a utility middle infielder. However, he played infrequently, and a twisted ankle kept him from playing at his full capability. He managed just one hit in April before being sent down to the minors. It was the only extra-base hit of his career, an RBI triple against St. Louis that drove in the go-ahead run of a 6-3 win. He also made a brilliant play at second base in that game, chasing down a throw from Mike Schmidt that got away from first baseman Johnson. The ball rebounded right to Andrews, who turned and threw out Garry Templeton trying to advance to second base on Schmidt’s throw.
Once Andrews’ ankle recovered at Triple-A Oklahoma City, he started hitting well and finished the season with a .290 batting average, 51 RBIs and 7 home runs. He was brought back to Philadelphia as a September call-up and finished the season with a .174 average. The Phillies finished first in the NL East but lost to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series. Andrews was not a part of the postseason roster.
Andrews’ career took a turn in the spring of 1978, when he was traded to the Mets for veteran shortstop Bud Harrelson. Harrelson had been told by the Mets that he would no longer be a starter, and he asked for a trade to either Boston or Philadelphia. He spent two seasons as a backup middle infielder with the Phillies before finishing his career in Texas. Andrews was devastated by the trade, especially because he was sent straight to the Triple-A Tidewater Mets instead of the big-league club. New York general manager Joe McDonald told him to show what he could do. “He has my stats in Triple A,” Andrews said. “He know what I can do.”
The Mets finished in last place in 1978 with Doug Flynn at second base and Tim Foli at shortstop. They combined to hit .245 with 1 home run and 63 RBIs. Andrews batted ..273 in Tidewater with 12 home runs and a career-best 75 RBIs, but he received no promotion and never reached the major leagues again. He spent 1979 playing in the Dominican Republic and Mexico before retiring at the age of 27.
Andrews played in a total of 16 games for the Phillies across two seasons. He had 8 hits in 29 at-bats, as well as 3 walks, for a .276/.353/.345 slash line. He drove in two runs, scored 4 times and stole 2 bases in 3 attempts. He played a total of 70 innings at second base and never made an error in the majors.
There is not much information available about Fred Andrews’ life after baseball There is one more story from his playing career, and it’s a sweet one. In 1978, there was a 7-year-old boy in Clearwater named Timmy Miles who was suffering from sickle cell anemia. A columnist in the Tampa Bay Times, Robert Henderson, wrote about him and a general need for blood transfusions. That column spurred a wave of blood donations in the area, and it went beyond Clearwater. The boy’s mom sent a copy of the column to Andrews, a friend of hers, in Tidewater. Several weeks later, Timmy got a card in the mail that read, “Gifts of flowers and fruit are always welcome, but I know you also needed blood. So I made a donation for you at the Red Cross.” The card was autographed by Andrews and 11 of his teammates. A Norfolk newspaper also took a photo of Andrews donating blood, and the caption read, “To Tim, with love.”