Hamby, Jim

Position: Catcher
Birthplace: Wilkesboro

First, Middle Names: James Sanford             Nickname: Cracker
Date of Birth:  July 29, 1897   Date and Place of Death: October 21, 1991, Springfield, IL
Burial: Camp Butler National Cemetery, Springfield, IL

High School: Undetermined
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-0, 170
Debut Year: 1926       Final Year: 1927          Years Played: 2
Team and Years: New York Giants, 1926-27

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
22        55        10        6          5          0          .182     .274     .218     -0.5

The only player from Wilkes County to make it to the major leagues, Jim Hamby appeared in 22 games over two seasons for the New York Giants. Though his big-league career was forgettable, Hamby was a respectable catcher during his 12 years in the low minor leagues. He retired to Springfield, Illinois, where he worked in a brewery. He was among the oldest former major leaguers when he died in 1991 at age 94.

Hamby was born in 1897 to a large farm family near Wilkesboro. He was the fifth of Jackson and Julianna’s nine children. All but one was a boy.

He was inducted into the Army in September 1918 and likely did his basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. World War I ended before he completed training, and he was discharged in December.

Fueled by the phenomenal growth of its tobacco and textile industries, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was booming when Hamby moved there in 1921. According to the census that year, he lived in a boarding house and worked at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the largest tobacco manufacturer in the world and the city’s biggest employer.

Hamby played his first professional baseball two years later when he hit .278 in 33 games for the Twins, the city’s entry in the Class C Piedmont League. He was the starting catcher by 1923, when he led the league with a .332 average. He continued his torrid hitting as he moved up the lower minor league — .301 for Rocky Mount, Virginia, in 1925 and .332 for Norfolk, Virginia, the next season. Somewhere along the way, he picked up the nickname Cracker, a common moniker for any rural player, especially those from the South.

Looking for catching help, John McGraw, the manager of the Giants, signed him, and Hamby made his major-league debut on Sept. 20, 1926. He went hitless in three at bats and, worse, made two errors behind the plate. That was the only game he played that season. McGraw, though, had him back the next year, though, as his backup catcher. Hamby appeared in 22 games and hit .192. McGraw had seen enough. He shipped him back to the minors.

He played six more years in the low minors before injuries forced his retirement in 1933 at age 35. In almost 1,000 games over a dozen minor-league seasons, he hit .300 and was considered a solid defensive catcher.

Springfield was one of his many stops. He played for the city’s Senators in 1929 and ’30 and may have met and married a local woman, though no online records exist. In the 1940 census, though, Hamby is listed as a widower living with his brother-in-law and working at a brewery. He later married Julia Hamby. There are no records that he had children.

 

 

 

Andrews, Nate

Player Name: Andrews, Nate
Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Pembroke

First, Middle Names: Nathan Hardy
Date of Birth:  Sept. 30, 1913 Date and Place of Death: April 26, 1991, Winston-Salem, NC
Burial: Rowland Cemetery, Rowland, NC

High School: Rowland High School, Rowland, NC
Colleges: Presbyterian Junior College, Maxton, NC; University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-0, 195
Debut Year: 1937       Final Year: 1946          Years Played: 8
Teams and Years: St. Louis Cardinals, 1937, 1939; Cleveland Indians, 1940-41; Boston Braves, 1943-45; Cincinnati Reds, 1946; New York Giants, 1946

Award: All-Star, 1944

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
127     41       54      2          3.46     773.1   216     8.5

Maybe it was happening. Maybe Nate Andrews was finally rediscovering the form that had made him a formidable pitcher back in Chapel Hill, that kid who had no-hit Wake Forest. He was a 29-year-old righty with a wicked curve, who had battled his waistline, booze, and bad luck in his first four seasons in the big leagues. He had been up and down from the minors and had just one major-league victory to his credit and an earned-run average, or ERA, approaching 8.00.

No one on the Boston Braves expected much from him when the 1943 season began. Everyone’s attention was drawn elsewhere, to a war in Europe and on pieces of rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that no one had ever heard of. With little notice, the guy with the 8.00 ERA won four of his first five starts, limiting opponents to less than two runs a game.

Then, it started. On May 23, he pitched nine innings of shutout ball, only to lose 1-0 when he surrendered a run in the 10th. He lost the next three games, also each by a run. The hard-luck losses kept piling up. When the season ended, Andrews had 20 of them. With a 2.57 ERA – the lowest of any 20-game loser in history – he deserved better. Sixteen of those losses came in games when the anemic Braves scored two or fewer runs. When his teammates briefly awoke to score at least three, Andrews was 11-4.

He rebounded to have an All-Star season the following year, but his odd, erratic behavior – one has to presume triggered or enhanced by alcoholism – forced Andrews to end his major-league career. He had a losing record, but his lifetime 3.46 ERA ties him for 15th place among North Carolinians who pitched at least 500 innings.

The middle of three surviving children, Nathan Hardy Andrews Jr. was born in 1913 in Pembroke in Robeson County. Founded on the rail lines to Charlotte and Wilmington, the community was called Scuttletown during Andrews’ childhood because it was a good place to get into a fight.[1] His father, Nathan Sr., was a country doctor who dispensed care for chickens, eggs, hams, and whatever else patients had to barter. His mother, Leona, was known as a stern disciplinarian. A music teacher, she passed her love for song to her eldest son, who became adept with various musical instruments.

Baseball, though, was Andrews’ passion. He started pitching during his senior year at Rowland High School and then at Presbyterian Junior College in Maxton, North Carolina.[2] He was also the fullback for the football team. Andrews transferred to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1933, the year he threw that no-hitter against Wake Forest College. He would always consider it his greatest achievement in baseball.

The St. Louis Cardinals signed him the following year, and Andrews would toil in their minor leagues for he next six seasons. The Cardinals that year made their fifth World Series appearance in nine years mostly on the strength of their pitching. They simply didn’t need him. He also irritated the team’s manager and coaches by being overweight and not always in top physical condition. He had pitched nine forgettable innings for the big-league club in 1937.[I]

Andrews responded to the criticism by shedding 15 pounds in 1939 and reporting early to the Cardinals’ training camp in Columbus, Ohio. He won 17 games that season for the farm club in Rochester, New York, and started in the American Association All-Star Game.

That led to a second call-up in mid-summer. Andrews expected to be plugged into the Cardinals’ starting rotation. Manager Ray Blades stuck him in the bullpen, instead, where he got shelled. Words were exchanged in a heated quarrel, and the Cardinals traded Andrews to their poor sisters, the Browns, at the end of the season. “[Nate] was the best pitcher in the American Association,” said Browns’ general manager Bill DeWitt. “He came up expecting to be pitched regularly. He didn’t do so well after the first game, then was thrown into the [bullpen as] a relief pitcher. It hurt his pride [and he] became sulky. He quarreled with Ray Blades and broke training. That’s how we happened to get him. He was a swell pickup for the money. Mind you, he’s really not a bad actor, just a victim of circumstances.”[II]

“Broke training” may indeed be a euphemism. He started drinking.

Andrews would never pitch for the Browns, who sold him to the Cleveland Indians in 1940. The next two years were difficult. He was suspended for more “training” violations. The Indians, for instance, left him in Florida in March 1941 for violating “training rules” in Cuba where the team had played a series of exhibition games.

His drinking also led to problems at home. His wife, Ellen, whom everyone called Virginia, left him for a time, taking their daughter with her. A farm girl from nearby Fairmont, North Carolina, she met her distant cousin at a barn dance. The couple got married in 1936. She alleged in court papers three years later that Andrews had become a “habitual drunkard” and that she “lives in constant fear of bodily harm.” She ask the court for $100 a month to support their daughter, Virginia Dare. She said Andrews paid only $45 a year to help the family.[III]

Andrews was living in South Carolina when he registered for the draft in 1940 and listed his father as a contact. There’s no evidence, however, that the couple was legally divorced. In fact, they would have two more children together.

After a brief stop in Cincinnati, Andrews found himself with the Braves to start the 1943 season. “We may be able to get out of seventh place,” Manager Casey Stengel said of the new arrival.[IV]  They did. The Braves finished sixth that year despite the new guy losing 20 games.

Andrews revived the following year, winning 16 games – the most on the staff – and pitching in the All-Star Game for a league that lost most of its stars to war. It was a remarkable comeback for a pitcher who was a wreck when he reported to Braves’ camp in Connecticut in March. He was drinking, taking “nerve pills” and enduring columns of bad publicity. He was pale, weak and unsteady. All he could do was lob the ball wildly to the pitcher.

He started attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and soon became the prize example for the Boston AA chapter. Andrews spoke often at meetings, and leaders later said he probably saved 150 alcoholics that summer.

Good natured and well-liked by his teammates, Andrews was open about his alcoholism and vowed to stay off the stuff this time. “The last time I went off the wagon three years ago, I swapped a brand new Gladstone bag for a two-dollar bottle of corn,” he said.[3][v]

To pass the time on long road trips, he bought books to read instead of whiskey to drink. During a dugout conversation about how many beers a man could drink at one sitting, Andrews said, “My own personal record is 50 pints in a day. I didn’t drink it because I liked it, but to put the fire out.”[VI]

That fire must have burned out of control in 1945. That was the year Andrews became what the Boston newspapers called the “lost pitcher.” He disappeared three times during the season without telling anyone. Once, relatives called the Braves to let the team know that Andrews had come home. In August, he failed to show up to pitch the opener of a doubleheader. He later claimed to have a sore arm and decided not to report to the ballpark. “I’ve pitched good ball for this club for three years,” he said. “I’m no goldbrick. I’ll do my share. My arm was sore today and I knew I couldn’t have pitched so what was the use of going out there.”[VII]

A week later, the Braves sold Andrews to the Reds for the $7,500 waiver fee. Reds Manager Bill McKechnie thought Andrews could win “if he could be induced to abstain.”[VIII] He didn’t show up for 10 days and was given permission to go home for the rest of the season. He promised to make a fresh start the next year.

Andrews pitched for two teams in 1946, his last in the major leagues, and wasn’t good with either. In a June game, the Cardinals were slapping him around. Red’s catcher Ray Lamanno called time and walked out to the mound.

“Do you feel all right, Nate?” he asked his pitcher.

“I’m all right, Ray,” Andrews replied. “I ain’t got no pain; I ain’t got no misery” – and then after a pause, “and I ain’t got nuthin’ on the ball.”[IX]

The Reds traded him to the New York Giants. He voluntarily walked away from the majors soon after. “I came home … of my own accord,” he explained. “I decided I had had enough of the Big Show and the time had come for me to return to North Carolina, where I could be with my family. I had a lot of years up there and too many away from home.”[X]

Andrews played, coached or managed in the minors for two more years. He also worked in the family drugstore, later opened his own dry-cleaning business and scouted for the Chicago White Sox in the 1950s.

He moved  in 1959 to work for a dry cleaner in Stokes County, North Carolina. After retiring he volunteered for a senior-citizens group in Stokes and advocated for programs for the elderly.

Late in life, poor circulation required the amputation of both legs below the knees. Andrews died in 1991 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


Footnotes
[1] Pembroke is now the center of culture for the Lumbee Indians, a state-recognized tribe.

[2] Presbyterian Junior College merged with Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, North Carolina, in 1958. A groundbreaking ceremony was held the next year in Laurinburg, North Carolina, for the campus of the new school, now called St. Andrews University.
[3] By Andrews day, Gladstone bags were long considered the epitome of fashionable travel. Made in England, the bag was a kind of suitcase built on a rigid frame that could be split into two separate parts.  It was usually made of very strong leather and was often ‘tied’ with lanyards also made of leather. (Gladstonebag.com, https://web.archive.org/web/20091031082308/http://www.gladstonebag.com/).

References
[I] Evans, Louis. “Rowland’s Nate Andrews Coming Back as Hurler.” Robesonian (Lumberton, NC), April 10, 1939.
[II] Skelton, David E. “Nate Andrews.” Society for American Baseball Research. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/nate-andrews/.
[III] “Alimony Suit Filed Against Nate Andrews.” Robesonian (Lumberton, NC), November 20, 1939.
[IV] Skelton.
[V] Kaese, Harold. “Nate Andrews Merits Best Comeback Award.” Boston (MA) Globe, November 30, 1944.
[VI] Ibid.
[VII] “Andrews Repeats Act.” Des Moines (IW) Tribune, Aug. 17, 1945.
[VIII] Husted, Bob. “The Referee.” Dayton (OH) Herald, March 28, 1946.
[IX] Skelton.
[X] O’Brien, Frank. “Move From Majors to Class D ‘Own Idea,’ Says Nate Andrews. Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), August 21, 1946.