This article was written by Bill Nowlin
A lifetime .500 hitter in the major leagues, flawless in the field, Kim Darrell Andrew had a couple of sips of coffee early in the season with the pennant-winning 1975 Red Sox but two years later found himself playing professional baseball in Italy.
Andrew was a Californian, born to Elbert L. Andrew and Frances Schandel Andrew in Glendale on November 14, 1953. His mother was a homemaker, raising Kim and his three sisters, one older and two younger. Early on, Kim’s father had his own business, Andrew Signs, but he sold the company and went to work for the County of Los Angeles as a sign painter. After 15 years or so with the county, he went to work as an artist with one of the motion picture studios, working on sets and doing location work. One of his specialties was gold leaf sign work.
With his father busy working to provide for the family, Kim’s mother was more active encouraging her son in athletic pursuits. His father was more of an artist and his mother more the athlete in the family. She played a little softball and she tells Kim that from the time he was old enough to walk on both feet, he’d started picking up objects and throwing them. It was as an infielder, not a pitcher, though, that Kim made his mark. Even into the 21st century, Kim will spend more time watching a ballgame with his mother than even with his own two sons, Matt and Jason.
Andrew dates his own beginnings in baseball to Mission Hills Little League at age 9. “I still remember my batting average my first year was .538,” Andrew recalls. “From that point on, I excelled in each classification.” He started out as a shortstop and played short right up through high school. It was only when the Dodgers drafted him in 1971 that they asked him to move to play second base.
It was indeed the Dodgers who first showed interest in signing Andrew as a pro. He played shortstop for James Monroe High School in North Hills. The same team produced two other major leaguers, Craig Cacek and John Flinn. Cacek was a first baseman who appeared in seven games for Houston in 1977, collecting one hit in 20 trips for a .050 batting average. Flinn was a pitcher, who appeared only briefly in three seasons with Baltimore and one with Milwaukee, finishing his career with a 5-2 mark and a 4.17 ERA. Though the Dodgers drafted him, Andrew did not sign with them and they elected not to redraft him in the winter draft. Kim played no ball that summertime, but entered Valley Junior College in the fall. He played ball there and ended up with five hitting records, hitting over .470 by year’s end. This attracted a visit from Orioles scout Ray Poitevint, who visited Kim’s parents in the stands right after he’d hit a grand slam home run and asked, “Why is it Kim doesn’t want to play professional baseball?” They looked at him in surprise and asked what he was talking about. Poitevint said Kim hadn’t seemed interested in the Dodgers and the word was that he didn’t want to play pro ball. The Dodgers had offered him only $5,000 to sign, and it hadn’t been enough to secure him.
In truth, Andrew was a bit ambivalent. “I wasn’t completely serious in signing with the scout when he came to the house here,” Andrew explains. “In fact, I was interested in going into wildlife management so I continued my education. Once I tried combining the scholastic side at the college level with pursuing my baseball endeavors after school, I found it was quite a challenge.” Poitevint made a substantial enough offer and Andrew signed with the Orioles in 1972 as an amateur free agent just two or three weeks before the draft. Andrew still wonders what he might have attracted had he waited for the draft.
The Orioles assigned him to rookie A ball in Lewiston, Idaho. Andrew played well, hitting .325 and making the all-star team. He had made the transition to second baseman, since the Orioles had the same sense that the Dodgers had expressed that second base would be his best position. Perhaps his legs weren’t long enough, he understood (Andrew was 5’10” and 160 pounds), or that he just didn’t have the “look” to be a shortstop. He had the winter off, though he did get in a couple of workouts during the winter months under Poitevint’s supervision, getting together with a number of other Southern Californians who were in the Orioles system. Kim stayed at home with his parents and worked a number of odd jobs, and took a few more courses in wildlife management. That field of work began to see some cutbacks, though, and he began to feel a bit more discouraged about prospects in the industry.
The following year, 1973, Andrew was assigned to the Single-A Miami Orioles in the Florida State League. He hit .336 with Miami, leading the league in hitting, and made both of the two all-star teams that were selected. He also led all second basemen in fielding percentage, beginning to establish more of a reputation as a fielder as well.
In 1974, Andrew moved up the ladder to Double-A, with an assignment to the Asheville (N.C) Orioles in the Southern League. Once again, he was named an all-star, this time placing fifth in the league in hitting, with an average of .317. He wasn’t protected, though. As he understands it, “after three years, if they don’t invite you to the major league camp or whatever, then you’re considered a free agent. That’s when the Red Sox drafted my contract for $25,000, and brought me to the Red Sox spring training down in Winter Haven, Florida.”
He went to spring training with the Red Sox and hit .350 with just one error in the field. He shared “rookie of spring training” status with none other than Fred Lynn. “I like to say I forced Darrell Johnson to have to put me in the major leagues,” he laughs.
Kim Andrew made the team out of spring training and appeared in two games early in the pennant-winning season of 1975. He managed to hit .500, but he got only two at-bats in the majors. The Sox had finished third the year before, not much over .500 themselves, playing to an 84-78 record. His debut game was April 16, 1975. The Sox were just a week out of spring training. Playing in Yankee Stadium, Yaz greeted Pat Dobson with a two-run homer in the first. In the third frame, Fred Lynn led off with a solo home run. Later that inning, Yaz walked, stole second and then took third on Thurman Munson’s errant throw, but he jammed his left ankle into Munson’s shin guard trying to score later in the inning. He had it taped and stayed in the game. Doug Griffin, though, had a right hip which was bothering him pretty badly and he sat out the game.
Lynn led off the fifth inning as well, and hit another home run. The Red Sox won the game 4-2, with those three homers accounting for all the Sox scoring. Andrew came in to play second base in the ninth inning. Bob Heise, who’d been playing second moved over to third to take Petrocelli’s spot. Andrew neither batted nor had a fielding chance during his first game.
There was no game scheduled the next day. On the 18th, Doug Griffin played second and went 0-for-4. Rice hit two home runs in that game. The game on the 19th was rained out, so Griffin got another chance to rest his hip. On the 20th, Griffin played again and went 1-for-4.
Kim Andrew’s next appearance was in Boston on Patriots Day, Monday April 21. Bill Rodgers won the Boston Marathon with a record 2:09:55 race time. The Sox were hosting the Yankees, Dobson again getting the start for New York. Bill Lee started for Boston, but got hammered for four runs in the top of the first and was charged with four more in the fourth. Boston was losing, 11-0, after six. Griffin had started the game and went 0-for-2, but then left after the sixth inning and Andrew took his place at second. Lou Piniella walked to lead off the New York seventh. Second up was Graig Nettles, who grounded into a force play, second to short (Andrew to Burleson).
Andrew’s first at-bat in the major leagues came in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Burleson walked, but Andrew grounded to third, where Nettles fielded the play and returned the favor, forcing Burleson at second. Andrew stood on Fenway’s first base on the fielder’s choice but didn’t advance, as Heise hit into an inning-ending grounder to the pitcher.
Elliott Maddox lined out to Andrew in the top of the eighth, and Andrew had his first major-league putout. He was involved in no other fielding plays, but in the bottom of the ninth made his mark at the plate. The Sox were down 12-0 and at risk of being shut out before the holiday home crowd. Tim Blackwell, who’d come in to the game to spell Bob Montgomery, led off the top of the ninth with a double to right. Rick Burleson grounded out to Nettles, but then Andrew singled to deep short. Blackwell held at second. Bob Heise followed with a single to left, scoring Blackwell, and moving Andrew to second base. Bernie Carbo hit into a double play to end the game. The Sox lost, 12-1, but Kim Andrew was batting .500 – and that remains his lifetime average. With one putout and one assist, his lifetime fielding average was an unimpeachable 1.000.
Andrew never saw action in another major-league game, though at the time he wouldn’t have known it was his last game. Darrell Johnson told him, “You’re not a bench player” and sent him down to Triple-A Pawtucket so he could fine-tune his skills and play every day. After a couple of weeks in Pawtucket, playing under manager Joe Morgan, Andrew sprained his ankle pretty badly. He was sent down to Double-A Bristol for a while, but returned to Pawtucket. “You feel like you’re on a yo-yo string. It’s a hard life, face it.”
Andrew was uncertain about his future. The big league club liked Denny Doyle a lot and he’d made his mark in the 1975 World Series. Andrew was more of a self-described “spray hitter, not a lot of power. Singles and doubles in the gap.” In line with the times, team management wasn’t very informative about the role they saw for him. Andrew confessed to some uncertainty: “At that point, I really didn’t know what was going on. I’m not sure what they were thinking about me. … I talked to a couple of people, but at that stage and once you get up into Triple-A, it’s a business. You’re on your own. And they didn’t have agents in those days. You didn’t have an attorney.”
Players had to look out for themselves, even if the uncertainty might undermine a player’s determination in training. Andrew, who’d begun his career with a bit of ambivalence, was a bit adrift. He remembers his final stretch in professional ball: “If you’re in the minor leagues and you’re not progressing … I told myself early in my career that if I’m not progressing, it’s going to be a difficult road to hoe for me. It’s easy to lie to a young 21-year-old kid, you know, which direction should I go, if this organization is not particularly keen on me at this time. What are my options? My last year that I was with the Red Sox, I started at Triple-A and then they wanted to send me down, and I said, ‘No.’ I told them, I said, ‘There’s no way.’ I wasn’t going to [go lower in the system].”
He knew it was the end of the road. “There was no way I was going to play for the Boston Red Sox. That was my last year. I ended up getting picked up by the Orioles. Then they let me go after three or four weeks, and at that point, I was disillusioned. I went back in the mountains in North Carolina and did some fly-fishing. And during that period of time, believe it or not, Bill Veeck of the White Sox called and left me a message. He wanted me to play ball for him; he was really keen on me. He left this long message for me. I was sitting there with my fly-fishing pole and I had this beard, just back in mountains. I said to myself I had no idea anybody would be interested in me, but I also had [heard from] the Pirates and I had one other organization that had called and left a message. I thought for sure I was going to get pretty much blackballed because I had pretty much told one organization ‘take a hike,’ and then the Orioles dumped me, and I said to myself, that’s probably it.
“I got disillusioned at that point and I was wondering if it was worth it. It’s one thing to go through all that mentally, and it’s another thing to have to physically throw everything together and … go to another place and start all over again. It really takes a lot to stick with it. You really do find out how much you really do want it. And I think at that stage … I wasn’t sure if I really wanted any more. With only two or three weeks left in the season after the call from Mr. Veeck and a couple of other organizations, I just said, you know what, I’m just riding out the rest of this season. Then I’ll take the winter off and see what I want to do.”
During the wintertime (1976-1977), Andrew was approached to play professional baseball in Italy. He took up the offer and played the 1977 season for Bollate, a well-established ballclub in Milano. The team played in a summer league, a season of 14 or 15 weeks, so Kim spent a summer playing teams in cities like Rimini, Florence, Rome, and Venice, before crowds ranging from 500 to 5,000.
Andrew recalls, “It was a pretty good experience, a cultural experience. I did my best to promote the game over there and at the same time make a few dollars… I think I led the whole league in hitting.” The league fielded teams of varying talent — one maybe around Double-A level, but another being perhaps no better than a good high school team. “It was not actually a big challenge for me, but I was able to play shortstop again and I loved it. I played so well over there that when I came back after being over there, I contacted a number of organizations, and the Pirates invited me to spring training from one of the letters that I wrote to the organizations. About two, two and a half weeks prior to me reporting, I slipped off a ladder and sprained my ankle. I figured at that point maybe that was kind of a sign: your baseball career is done. Officially. So I called it a career.”
Kim returned to the United States and worked in sporting goods retail for a while, and then began working for the company he still works for in 2005: Federal Express. He has served the last 24 years as a freight driver for FedEx, marrying a year or two after his return and raising two boys. Both boys played baseball into their high school years, but neither pursued it further. Baseball still remains in Kim’s blood, though. As of late summer 2005, he was contemplating taking early retirement at age 55 and then musing about trying to become a minor-league batting coach.
Despite the way his career ended, in retrospect he sees opportunities perhaps missed. “I was watching a baseball game yesterday and there was a pitcher who’d been released three or four times. I said to myself, that’s amazing. And he’s pitching in the major leagues now. If I would have known that, I wouldn’t have been so disillusioned back then, probably. I realize [now] there’s always an organization that looks at you differently than the organization you’re with.”
He recalls several of the players with the Red Sox in those days, and felt particular affinity to Jack Baker, Don Aase, and Jim Burton. As a young rookie, he didn’t have a lot of personal interaction with stars like Carl Yastrzemski. “I was the bottom man on the totem pole with that team and he had a lot of power, he had a lot of influence. I do believe he said a couple of things to me at one time or another, but I pretty much kept myself in line while I was with the time. Pretty much was there to do the job, if called upon.”
Kim Andrew was remembered when it came time to distribute World Series shares, and received a check for $500. He hadn’t expected a thing and was pleased to receive it; while with the team, he says he’d been making the major-league minimum of the day.
A version of this biography appeared in “’75: The Red Sox Team That Saved Baseball” (Rounder Books, 2005; SABR, 2015), edited by Bill Nowlin and Cecilia Tan.
Author interview with Kim Andrew, July 24, 2005.
John Thorn and Pete Palmer. Total Baseball.