Former pitcher made his mark as hometown’s first mayor

For a few games in 1925, Elbert Devore Andrews lived the dream of being a major league pitcher. 

His game numbers are fairly unremarkable.  However, those numbers are only a small part of the remarkable story of how Elbert Devore Andrews made it to the major leagues and why he walked away.

Andrews was born on December 11, 1901 in Greenwood, S.C.  Greenwood had only become a county four years earlier.  While he didn’t know it at the time, Andrews would become very influential in it some of the next stages of Greenwood’s history.

Growing up in Greenwood, Andrews attended Bailey Military Academy during high school.  During that time, he was also helping his father with the Durst-Andrews wholesale grocery business. One of the early mentions of Andrews’ athletic ability involves playing in a tennis championship.

After high school graduation, Andrews enrolled in Furman University in 1921 with no plans of being an athlete.  By all measures, he was succeeding in the classroom.  

Furman Head Football and Baseball Coach Bill Laval invited Andrews to serve as the manager of the football team.  Andrews accepted that invitation. 

During the 1922 season, Furman reached a critical point with its football team.  Two players were dismissed for breaking team rules. With the team potentially unable to field enough players for a game against South Carolina, Andrews was added to the squad as a player.

An article in the Gaffney Ledger described Andrews in this way: “He has never played football but is an accurate punter and remarkable player, and he has a chance to win a regular berth.”

Laval, who also coached baseball, thought that with some direction he could turn Andrews into a pitcher. Laval’s help led to Andrews pitching for Furman in the 1922-24 seasons. 

Andrews graduated from Furman in 1923 and returned to his hometown. He spent that summer working in the grocery business while pitching for the Greenwood team in the Carolina League (Textile Baseball). 

A scout from the Philadelphia Athletics signed Andrews to a contract before the start of the 1924 baseball season. Andrews reported to spring training with the team. He later sent a letter to “Greenwood” that was published in the local newspaper.  Andrews describes Connie Mack, manager of the Athletics, as “one of the finest men I ever met.  He treats all boys as if they were his own. It’s a pleasure to play under him.”

After spring training, Andrews joined Martinsburg, W.Va. in the Blue Ridge (Class D) League.  Martinsburg won the league championship and Andrews was credited as being a key part of that title.  Few statistics are currently available from the Blue Ridge League.

When Martinsburg’s season wrapped up at the beginning of September, Andrews was already thinking about walking away from baseball.  On Sept. 17, his local newspaper printed that Andrews “is undecided about whether or not he will play baseball next spring, but if he does he will have to report to Connie Mack.”

By the start of 1925, Andrews decided to give professional baseball one more chance.  In February, he received his notification to join the As.  In March, he joined the team in Fort Myers, Fla.  

As he entered the 1925 season, an article focusing on Andrews appeared in the Greenwood Index-Journal.  Andrews was described as a person who “does not seek public attention.”  Interestingly, the article provided a summary of Andrew’s career in baseball.  “Devore went to Furman with very little prospects of become a baseball player,” according to the article. “He left the Baptist college as a first-class pitcher.”

On May 1, 1925, Andrews made his major league debut in a 9-4 loss to the Washington Senators.  He recorded one inning with no runs and a walk. In entering the game, Andrews became the first player from Furman University to play in Major League Baseball.  Coincidentally, that game was also the first major league game for 17-year-old Jimmie Foxx, a future Hall of Famer.

On May 5, he pitched two scoreless innings in a loss to the Yankees.  On May 19, he entered the game in a 5-5 tie with the Browns and faced one batter — Wally Berber. Berber grounded out to end the inning. In his fifth MLB appearance, Andrews ran into trouble in a game against the Senators.  He allowed 5 runs (3 earned) in 2 innings. 

His final appearance came on June 12 in a 15-1 loss to the White Sox.  He entered the game with one out in the sixth inning and performed well through the end of the 7th inning. In the 8th inning the game, and his major league career took a hit as he surrendered six runs to the heart of the White Sox lineup.

The Athletics released Andrews and sent him to Baltimore (AA) where he debuted on July 8.  After two games there, he was sent back to Martinsburg.  At Martinsburg, he pitched well and finished with an 8-1 record for the season.

As that season ended, Andrews decided he was ready to return home to Greenwood.  In September, he was asked about the possibility of playing again.  Andrews responded, “I thought of quitting last year but Connie Mack said he was going to use me as much as possible this year — and well, you know, a fellow hates to quit with there’s a chance of breaking into the big show.”

He said Mack wanted him to stay in baseball. However, Andrews decided to go ahead and work in business and he was interested in finding ways to help his hometown.

Part of his decision might have been based on the economics of baseball. In 1925, he was paid $2,000 to play for the Athletics.  The average income in the U.S. at the time was more than $3,000 a year.

In 1926, a Textile League team approached Andrews about pitching for the team.  Andrews told the club that he had retired from professional baseball. 

It did not take Andrews long to find a way to help his community.  On March 9, 1927, he won the Democratic Party nomination for mayor of Greenwood.  He became the youngest mayor in the state and he also became Greenwood’s first mayor as it was the city’s first year of incorporation. 

Andrews served as Greenwood’s mayor from 1927-1931 before stepping away.  He returned to politics and was elected mayor in 1934 and would finally step away from politics in 1941.

He still was involved in baseball and served as the president of the Palmetto Textile League.  Later, he would serve as the president of the Central Carolina Baseball League (Textile). Under his guidance as mayor, Greenwood also set up youth sports programs that included baseball. 

During his time in office, Greenwood built a new courthouse and post office. He also played a role in securing the Buzzards Roost Dam project that would create Lake Greenwood and provide power to the county and other surrounding areas.

Aside from being mayor, he managed a number of businesses in Greenwood including wholesale groceries, a feed and seed store, Long Motor Lines and the start of the Devore Andrews Company that would specialize in heating and air conditioning work. 

He died on Nov. 25, 1979 in Greenwood, S.C., and was lauded in the local newspaper as an example of what it means to be a public servant.

Sources:

  •  Gaffney Ledger, 11 Nov 1922, page 8
  •  Index-Journal, March 12 1924, p. 10
  •  Index-Journal, March 14 1924, p. 5
  •  Index-Journal, Sept. 17, 1924, p. 5
  •  Index-Journal, Feb 2, 1925, p. 6
  •  Index-Journal, March 16, 1925, p. 6
  •  Greenville News, July 20, 1925, p. 7

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