Andrews devotes life to Jimmy Fund

Andrews devotes life to Jimmy Fund

Mike Andrews was a rookie second baseman for the Red Sox in 1967 when he was asked to meet with a young cancer patient before a game at Fenway Park.

A teammate of Andrews had just backed out of the visit with the child because of an injury, so Bill Koster, the chairman of the team's official charity, The Jimmy Fund, asked Andrews if he could meet with the patient instead.

At first, Andrews was miffed because of the last-minute request that cut into his time for pregame warmups, but he still agreed to meet with the child before the game.

Andrews then spent 30 minutes with the 12-year-old boy, who was excited about being released from the hospital and talked about his goal of being an All-Star in his youth baseball league the next season.

After the meeting, Andrews excitedly told Koster about the boy's youthful optimism but Koster then told him the bad news -- the boy was released from the hospital because there was nothing left for the doctors to do to save his life.

"It was a wakeup call for me," Andrews said. "I just remember the impact of that visit because I realized, 'How could I be worried about something like getting ready for a game with things like that happening?'"

The meeting with the boy ended up changing the life of Andrews and many others, as it was a sparkplug for him devoting his life to The Jimmy Fund after baseball.

Now, Andrews is celebrating his 30th anniversary with The Jimmy Fund, and since 1984, he has been the chairman of the fund that has raised nearly $600 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which specializes in cancer research and patient care for both children and adults.

"He's so much more than just the face of the fund," said Suzanne Fountain, who serves as director of The Jimmy Fund. "He does everything. When we started, we were raising maybe $1 million, and now our goal is about $58 million. Now it's huge. It's so well-known in the community and in New England and beyond."

Jimmies and Janes

In the 1940s, childhood cancer was essentially incurable by doctors. Chemotherapy was still in its infant stages, and there just wasn't much doctors could do to save a child suffering from cancer.

But Dr. Sidney Farber made it his mission to help find cures in childhood cancer, and in 1948, he found a way to cause remission in childhood cases of leukemia by using a new form of chemotherapy.

Farber, however, needed to raise funds for his research and his patients, whom he dubbed "Jimmies" and "Janes" in an effort to maintain their privacy.

So that same year, in 1948, one of Farber's "Jimmies" appeared on Ralph Edwards' national radio show, "Truth or Consequences," and asked for donations for a television set so that he could watch his beloved Boston Braves from his hospital room.

Well, the boy got more than he asked for, as more than $200,000 was raised, and thus the money was used to create "The Jimmy Fund," which provided funds for the Children's Cancer Research Foundation, now known as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The fund became a major part of the Braves' organization, but when the franchise moved to Milwaukee after the 1952 season, the Red Sox began a partnership with The Jimmy Fund that has lasted since April 10, 1952.

"As far as we can tell, it's the longest relationship between a team from one of the major sports and a charity that has ever occurred in this country," Andrews said.

It's a relationship that's still strong as ever, with the famous Jimmy Fund sign on the Green Monster, which was originally the only advertising allowed at Fenway Park under former owners Tom and Jean Yawkey.

Now, Red Sox players such as Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, Tim Wakefield and Mike Lowell are just some of the players that lend their time to The Jimmy Fund.

"It's been a tradition for so long," Youkilis said. "Ted Williams and that generation, it started all the way back then. It's a testament to the people that work there and Red Sox fans and Red Sox players. Everyone around the Boston Red Sox has done a great job, and the people at The Jimmy Fund have done a great job helping those kids in need."

California Kid

Andrews was a three-sport star at Torrance South High School near Los Angeles before settling in at nearby El Camino College, where he starred in both football and baseball.

But Andrews chose the latter when he signed with the Red Sox in 1961, and after four years in the Minors, he finally was called up for five games during the 1966 season.

Luckily for Andrews, however, his Triple-A manager Dick Williams was hired to manage the team for the 1967 season after the Red Sox finished second to last in the American League in 1966.

Williams liked Andrews from his days in the Minors, so the 23-year-old became the club's everyday second baseman, and neither he nor the Red Sox disappointed that season.

The 1967 season, of course, was billed as "The Impossible Dream," as the Red Sox surprised the baseball world and advanced to the World Series against the Cardinals, ultimately falling in seven games.

"We were like 100-to-1 shots to even do that," recalled Andrews, who batted .263 that season and .308 in the World Series. "It brought baseball back alive around New England, and it's been like that ever since. That year let people know that anything can happen."

Andrews then enjoyed a career year in 1969, when he was named an All-Star for the only time in his career, batting .293 with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs.

But after the 1970 season, he was traded to the White Sox for aging shortstop Luis Aparicio, and while with Chicago, Andrews suffered a wrist injury that shortened his career.

Andrews made one last hurrah with the A's in 1973, and he won a World Series, but he appeared in just 18 games with the club and joked, "all I did to contribute was that I was a good batting-practice pitcher."

Then after a season in Japan, Andrews was done with baseball. He went into working with Mass Mutual Insurance Co., where he worked for several years before he received a phone call in 1979 from former Red Sox announcer Ken Coleman, who was appointed executive director of The Jimmy Fund after Koster retired.

Coleman asked Andrews if he wanted to be his assistant director, but Andrews agreed under one condition: "I told him I'd do it only part-time, because I was still involved with the insurance business," Andrews said. "But after awhile, I phased into full-time."

A second career

In Andrews' first season with The Jimmy Fund, Billy Starr created the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge bike-a-thon, which helped the fund reach the $1 million-mark for the first time in history.

But now the Pan-Mass Challenge is the organization's biggest fundraiser, bringing in $35 million last year alone.

"It's probably the largest charity event in the country," Andrews says of the two-day bike ride that features nearly 5,000 participants.

The Pan-Mass Challenge is simply the biggest of more than 300 fundraising events put on each year by the fund, such as 150 golf tournaments, the Jimmy Fund Walk at the Boston Marathon, the Scooper Bowl ice cream festival and many others, with all of the proceeds raised by the various events going to the Dana-Farber Institute.

"It supports patient care and research, which is a 50-50 balance," Fountain said of Dana-Farber. "We also treat children and adults. We're well-known for The Jimmy Fund clinic and we started with pediatrics, but we've found that a lot of the gains you find in pediatric cancer research leads the way for gains for research in adult cancer."

Andrews, now 65, still makes it a point to make it to as many events as possible while meeting with volunteers and patients alike.

"I love seeing him at different events, because I know he's been here 30 years, but his passion has still grown in those 30 years," said Lisa Scherber, the activities coordinator for the Jimmy Fund Clinic. "It feels like he's still a rookie because of the gleam in his eyes, but he's a veteran, obviously -- he knows everything, but he still has that child-like excitement for the Jimmy Fund and for the patients and their families."

It's Andrews' enthusiasm as a ballplayer that has carried over into his second career, which he calls more fulfilling than the first.

"I had so many wonderful experiences in baseball, but it's just a game," Andrews said. "The last 30 years here have been so satisfying. We're talking about life or death here. To be lucky enough to have the little role of raising funds so that these brilliant doctors can do their research and to see the results -- there's just no comparison."

Now Andrews' efforts have even reached the West Coast, as the Dodgers emulated the Red Sox's partnership with the Jimmy Fund by creating ThinkCure, which was founded in 2007, benefiting the City of Hope and Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

ThinkCure was the brainchild of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, whose grandfather was a part-owner of the Boston Braves and helped launch The Jimmy Fund.

"It's an offspring of the Jimmy Fund," McCourt said. "I met with Mike and he was fantastic. With his blessing, we launched it, and it's very similar in the sense that it focuses on raising funds for cancer research, and specifically to raise funding to find a cure."

It's all part of Andrews' hope to get baseball organizations and players active in community organizations such as The Jimmy Fund, so that their lives can take on new meanings after baseball, just like his did.

"I only wish that every former ballplayer could have an opportunity like mine," Andrews said. "Because most never find anything to take the place of being a ballplayer. But my void was overflowed with just feeling so good about being a part of this. I know a lot has been made about this being my 30th year, but I'm the lucky one -- much luckier than the institute is to have me."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.