Hubert Andrews may not have had the baseball career he envisioned, but the former Dodge Citian who died last year at the age of 89 didn't know before his career that he would have a personal connection to two of baseball's biggest moments on the same day.
It was the 1946 season opener for the International League's Jersey City Giants. Hub (as he was known with the team) was a pitcher. The first game was April 18 against the Montreal Royals, a farm club of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Dodgers had just signed a new second baseman late in 1945 and sent him with the Royals to Jersey City for experience. That player would go on to revolutionize the game just by playing: Jackie Robinson.
There was an estimated 25,000 fans in attendance at Roosevelt Stadium for the game to see the new player who had broken the "color" barrier of playing from the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs to being a member of the Dodgers' organization.
Andrews was the third and final pitcher for the Giants to face Robinson that day in the top of the eighth with the Royals already completing a rout over the Giants.
That didn't stop Robinson from showing his domination at the plate on the basepaths. The righthander allowed Robinson to get on base; and by the time the runner got to third, he started to start-and-stop dashing for home plate. Andrews committed a balk to allow Robinson to score.
Robinson finished the game with a three-run home run, three singles (two on bunts), two stolen bases and four runs (twice inducing balks from the opposing pitcher).
"After this historical game, I'm sure we players were unaware of the impact this emerging black star would have on the future baseball world," Andrews said to the Jersey Journal when interviewed in 1997 about the game. "It is doubtful that anyone except the determined Robinson with his competitive spirit and outstanding ability could have fulfilled (Dodgers' owner) Branch Rickey's dream."
Andrews' daughter, Lynn Skaggs, said her father mentioned that a number of players had trouble accepting Robinson as a teammate because of his race. There was an edict from the International League to halt all the epithets and actions towards Robinson. Skaggs said the only time her father and Robinson saw each other would be on the baseball field.
"Let's face it, it was the 1940s and that some of them would throw the ball at (Robinson's) head or catch him with their cleats when he was on base," Skaggs said about her father. "Dad was not against him. My dad was a gentleman, so even in that year, he never thought of hurting anybody. The reason why Dad is at Cooperstown was playing that day."
Andrews' second brush with history lasted throughout the season and turned out to be his roommate: a centerfielder who like the pitcher had just started his career again after spending time serving the country during World War II. The roommate had a much more successful career in the Major Leagues, including the 1951 home run that completed the Giants' comeback to win the National League pennant and was immortalized by the announcer yelling: "The Giants won the Pennant."
Yes, Andrews was a roommate with Bobby Thomson, who was also playing in Robinson's first game for Montreal. Skaggs said her father didn't talk much about Thomson except for playing together and being roommates.
Andrews made the big leagues with the parent Giants five days after Robinson in 1947, but was sent back to Jersey City early in the season. He returned to New York after helping the J.C. Giants win that season's pennant with a 13-6 record.
That season, Andrews threw seven games for the Giants, giving up six earned runs in 8 2/3 innings, all in relief. Although he wasn't on the team for long, he did get a ring from the organization celebrating the team hitting 221 home runs in the season, then a National League record.
"Dad wore that ring with pride," Skaggs said. "He wore it for over 60 years. My brother Brett has that ring now."
Andrews threw only three innings for the Giants in a game early in the 1948 season before being sent back to Jersey City and for a stint to the Minneapolis Millers. Andrews never played in the Major Leagues again, ending his career with Jersey City after the 1949 season.
The right-hander never earned a decision and finished his major league career with a 4.63 earned run average, giving up 17 hits and eight runs (six earned). He struck out two and walked four. For his complete career — all with the Giants' organization between Jersey City, the Millers and Fort Smith in the Class C Western Association — Andrews was 38-38 with a 3.60 ERA.
"I know he had some calcium deposits in his shoulder and that's probably the reason why he didn't stay longer," Skaggs said. "I was a baby at the time and he never really talked about it too much to me."
Skaggs said Andrews also got the nickname "Tunnie" — which was how many in Dodge City knew her father — for boxing heavyweight champion Gene Tunney, earning the nickname from his brothers as they boxed and worked out in the basement of their school.
"It was just one of those things that just stick with you and he did do some boxing in the Army," Skaggs said.
Andrews turned to golf when he moved to Dodge City in 1963 and became one of the top golfers at Dodge City Country Club, winning 10 men's golf club titles while also being in the insurance business for 35 years.
Andrews had some health problems in the few years before his death in March 11, 2012, but he never lost his love for the Giants organization.
"I can tell you when the San Francisco Giants won the pennant (World Series) in 2010, it was a big thrill for him," Skaggs said. "He watched every game and was thrilled they won it."