Earlier in my visit to take care of mom in Marietta, Ohio, I wrote of her memory of dad’s ball playing back when she was 18 and he was 21, and also of what my brother remembers of her tales of this era. But as so often has happened with my mother’s stories of the past, the image of my fast pitch softball-playing dad hung in my mind like a virtual reality simulation. And THAT led me, the other day, to stop in to the local genealogy library in search of corroboration.
These folks at the Washington County Genealogy Library, they’re like family history doctors. I’ve worked with most of them: Catherine, Ernie, Lila–they all will get down there in the roots of your family tree with you and dig around until something good comes up. Today I talked to Eric. “Do you have the Marietta Times on file?” I wanted to know. Eric said that it was on microfilm all the way back to about 1860. I found myself spooling through small town news reports of the period of April to July, 1931. This can be a great experience even if you don’t find what you are looking for, and I heartily recommend it to you, even on a spring day when the robins are cherwalloping outside. You’ll get tired eventually, and there you will be sitting on a park bench, looking at the two-story frame houses with broad, curving front porches under the trees. And sprouting amid the tufts of new green grass will be spring beauties, violets and assorted dandilions.
Anyway, that April in 1931, when those same, or very similar spring flowers were blooming, Mariettans were reading about the U.S. involvement in the revolution in Nicaragua. According to Wikipedia “From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, who withdrew upon the establishment of a new Liberal government.” That sounded pretty familiar. People were dealing with the Hoover administration then and complaining about it. People were poor; it was the middle of the depression. The stock market crash of 1929 was still vividly in everyone’s mind. Lindbergh was talking about flying the Pacific with his wife as company.
I couldn’t dally too long in this amazing past, however, I had a mission. I tried a strategy. For some reason, I assumed that it would be darned hot when these softball games were being played, and that everyone would be out there trying to get cool and be entertained. I looked through the April sports pages, then a bit in the May and June sections. STILL NO SQUEE ANDRIS, and the clock was ticking. And then, right from those July Marietta Times sports headlines, leaped those ball games that my dad had played, no, HAD STARRED IN!!
Mom had called it “The Twilight League,” and maybe that it will turn out to be. But I read instead of TWO leagues that my dad had played in. He played for Willard in the Junior Softball league, but he didn’t pitch, rather played center field occasionally. But it was with the so-called “Church League” that dad excelled. He pitched consistently for the Baptists, which had still not lost a game in the Church League in the middle of July, when my time ran out. He held at bay the Christians, the First M. E., the Gilman M. E. and Norwood, and possibly others. “Squee” regularly struck out hitter after hitter, though he didn’t pitch a no-hitter in this sequence of games. And he could connect the bat to the ball himself, and landed a couple of two-base hits. My dad, “Squee” Fernand Andris, got mentioned probably more than any other player on his team, and as much as any league star.
Here’s a sample of what the paper says.
Tuesday, June 30. “Andris held the Christians scoreless until the 4th.”
Wednesday, July 1. ” ‘Squee’ Andris steadied after the fourth inning and held the M. E. team to a single hit and struck out three in the last three innings.”
Friday, July 3. “Andris held the Gilmans to three hits, two of them by McKenna.”
Friday, July 10. “Andris’ hurling featured the game [this was the first-round championship game]. He fanned nine men and had a string of four strikeouts in a row.”
But one of my favorite games was the July 1. They played seven innings on a regular night and stepped it up to nine innings for championship games. Here is the paper’s description of the last inning of that game. M. E. was beating the Baptists 5 -3. I can almost hear the radio announcer, had there been one:
“Andris got the M. E.’s out in order in the first of the seventh. Patterson hit to start the last of the seventh for the Baptists, Milbaugh weakened momentarily and walked Hayes. Strimmel, next man up, forced Patterson at third and Milbaugh fanned Gano. With two down and the last man in the batting order up the game looked in the bag for the M. E.’s but the last man up, Rinard, cracked out a double to score Hayes and Strimmel, tieing the score. Rinard came home a moment later when McPeek slashed out a hit and the game was over.”