The Philadelphia Phillies won their first-ever National League East Division crown during the Bicentennial year of 1976, making the first postseason appearance by the franchise since the 1950 Whiz Kids.
This is the first Phillies team in our ‘Phillies 50’ series that will not have a pitching representative. The two factors in selecting players to be featured in the series were that they made a minimal contribution to that year’s ball club, but also over their MLB career as a whole.
Manager Danny Ozark got through the 1976 season utilitizing only 11 pitchers, easily the least number of arms featured on a Phillies staff to this point in the series. Only one of those arms, 21-year-old southpaw Randy Lerch, met the “minimal contribution to that year’s ball club” requirement. Lerch appeared in just one game that year after seeing his first three games of big-league action the prior season.
But he does not fit the requirement of having made minimal impact in MLB over his career. Lerch became a regular in the Phillies starting rotation the following year and would remain in the rotation for four seasons total. He appeared in 253 games in Major League Baseball across an 11-year career with four teams, making 164 starts.
Each of the other 10 arms to appear with the Phillies that year made significant contributions that season and enjoyed substantive big-league careers. The starters were Steve Carlton, Jim Kaat, Jim Lonborg, Larry Christenson, and Tom Underwood. Out of the bullpen were Ron Reed, Tug McGraw, Gene Garber, Wayne Twitchell, and Ron Schueler.
So, we turn to the position players to find someone to represent the 1976 Phillies in this series. While that group was also nearly a shutout, there was one player who fits the bill perfectly. That would be a 24-year-old infielder named Fred Andrews.
Born in Louisiana, Andrews had been the Phillies choice in the eighth round of the 1970 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in Ohio. In a 1974 season split between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Toledo, Andrews finally enjoyed a breakout campaign.
He spent the entire 1975 and 1976 seasons as the starting second baseman at Triple-A, hitting .297 in the Bicentennial summer. That led to his first big-league promotion when rosters expanded that September.
Not used until after the team had clinched the NL East crown, Andrews would appear in four games over the final week. On September 26, 1976 in the second game of a doubleheader at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Ozark gave all of his regulars a rest.
Andrews was given the start that night at second base. In a game that would be called by rain with the Phillies winning 2-1 in seven innings, Andrews enjoyed his first three plate appearances and reached base in each of them.
In the top of the 2nd inning he drew a walk against Expos’ starter Dennis Blair. Leading off the top of the 4th inning, Blair hit him with a pitch. He was left stranded each of those times, but not in his final appearance. With one out in the top of the 6th inning, Andrews legged out an infield single. Two batters later he scored what would prove to be the game-winning run on an RBI base hit by catcher Tim Blackwell.
After entering as late-game replacement at second base for starter Dave Cash in a pair of road ames at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, Andrews got one final start on October 1, 1976 in his only game that year at Veterans Stadium. On that Friday night he produced a pair of hits in a game won by the Phillies 2-1 over the New York Mets on a walkoff homer by John Vukovich in the bottom of the 9th inning.
Andrews was not carried by the Phillies on the postseason roster for the NLCS in which they were swept in three straight games by Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” ball club. He would appear in a dozen games, receiving 25 plate appearances, with the 1977 Phillies in what would be his last big-league action.
Near the end of 1978 spring training the Phillies traded Andrews to the Mets in exchange for veteran infielder Bud Harrelson. He spent the 1978 season at Triple-A Tidewater, then ended his professional career by playing in both the Dominican Republic and Mexico in 1979.