BOSTON — Mike Andrews compiled plenty of phenomenal memories during a successful career in Major League Baseball. He was on the 1967 Red Sox Impossible Dream team. He went to the All-Star Game. He even won a World Series.
But Andrews has done so much more.
After retiring from baseball and starting his career in the insurance industry, Andrews was coaxed by former Red Sox commentator Ken Coleman to help out at the Jimmy Fund in 1979. Andrews remembered visiting Dana-Farber patients for the program during his playing days, volunteering his time occasionally, so he said he wouldn’t mind helping out a bit.
What started as a part-time project, however, turned into Andrews’ life work.
"To pick a specific reason would be impossible," Andrews said of why he stayed. "When I first went to work with Ken, it was understanding that it would be on a part-time basis because of my insurance business. After a few months working with Ken, I realized for many reasons that this is what I really wanted to do."
And because of Andrews, the Jimmy Fund transformed into the prominent charity it is today. The first year, Andrews and Coleman teamed up to raise $1 million for cancer research. In 2009 alone, the Jimmy Fund raised $64 million.
Efforts like the Boston Marathon Walk, the NESN/WEEI telethon and various golf tournaments — large-scale fundraisers hatched by Andrews — significantly increased not only donations but also awareness, putting the Dana-Farber Jimmy Fund at the forefront of cancer charities in Massachusetts.
"All of them are important. Not all have been successful, but the ones that are, are doing so much today," said Andrews, who was Chairman for 30 years before stepping down in 2009. "The one at the top of the list is the Radio Telethon. We tried to raise money from radio stations across New England, and it took a lot of time to know what NESN and WEEI have done for it, and it is now one of the most successful events in all of New England. The golf tournament has really gone from 20 isolated golf tournaments to 150 is really a special thing. It goes on and on."
Planning these projects certainly kept Andrews busy, but what kept him inspired for 30 years was his daily interaction with both Dana-Farber patients and staff. Though there was not one specific story that kept him motivated for all those years. Instead, Andrews said the knowledge that he was able to help so many families all the time was enough for him.
"There are so many stories over that period of time, so many relationships you develop, so many kids and adults we lost, so many that were saved and are living a wonderful life now, that it would be impossible to try to pick ones that were more important or more significant than others," Andrews said.
"Then you get involved with the families and volunteers who give so much time and inspire you, and many of them are parents of kids who will take the most tragic thing in their lives and go out to help the cause," he added. "Plus you get to know the staff at the Dana-Farber, and when you look at everyone there, it is just an amazing place that is all about trying to cure cancer. It isn’t about money, it’s about really, as a family, trying to make a difference and try to beat this disease. When you look at what they put into it, it inspires you on a daily basis."
Andrews first got a taste of this inspiration when he was a player, volunteering for the Jimmy Fund, which was started by the Yawkey family, the former owners of the Red Sox. That was what drew him back in when Coleman came calling, and that is why Andrews wishes more Red Sox players would come share in the opportunity to volunteer their time — though he is extremely appreciative of guys such as Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield, who already do.
"I have said to players they may not realize the impact they have, but the stories I have heard and seen personally by them being there are amazing," Andrews said. "I always try to tell them that you just don’t know the kind of impact you can have. Once you’re gone and you’re not a Red Sox player again, you will never have the impact you can have now.
"By sharing a little time with them can sometimes do more than medicine can do. Guys like Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield and countless others do realize that."
It’s tough to realize just how big an impact Andrews has made and how many lives he’s touched. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute tried, however, by creating the No. 2 Fund in his honor, which will aid pediatric cancer research at Dana-Farber in perpetuity.
"That was the by far the most meaningful gift they could give me," Andrews said. "I was very moved by that, and it was the perfect thing they could have done for me."
Mike Andrews had a great baseball career, packed with memories that will last a lifetime. But none of them, he said, come close to what he’s been able to do with the Jimmy Fund.
"I have really fond memories of baseball, but they don’t even come close, not even in the ballpark with what I’ve done with the Jimmy Fund," he said. "That’s a game, and you can’t compare with saving lives for 31 years."