Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Karl Drews was well traveled, had first-round pick grandson

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

Karl Drews pitched professionally in four decades; somebody in Organized Baseball was always willing to take a chance on a big (6'4", 192 lbs.) hard-throwing right-hander . . . even if he was a bit wild. He played for 20 teams in 21 seasons.

Drews was born in Ellingville on Staten Island, N.Y. in 1920, and the hometown Yankees signed him as a 19-year-old free agent in 1939.

Drews had an impressive start in pro ball. With the Yankees' Class D Butler farm club he led the  Pennsylvania State Association with a 16-5 record on a 3.66 ERA. He was, however, second on the circuit in giving up bases on balls--23 in 192 innings.

That was the pitching pattern for much of Drews' career; he often won more than a dozen games a season, but frequently was among his leagues' leaders in walks; giving 110 or more free passes in five seasons.

From 1940-42, Drews made six stops on Class B and C  clubs in the East and South: 1940--Akron and Norfolk, 1941--Amsterdam, August and Norfolk, and 1942--Norfolk and Evansville.

Drews apparently spent the 1943 season in the military. In 1944 he made the jump to top Yankee farm teams at Binghamton and Newark, winning 15 games and losing 11.

In 1945 he remained with Newark in the International League for the entire season, leading the Bears with 19 wins.

He had 14 wins at Kansas City, the top Yankees' minor league team, before being called up in September. With New York from September, 1946 through July, 1948, Drews had an 8-12 record. He appeared in relief twice during the 1947 World Series win over the Dodgers.

In August, 1948, Drews was sold to the St. Louis Browns. He was 3-2 with an 8.05 ERA during the rest of 1948, and after a 4-12 season in 1949, he was farmed out to Baltimore, then in the International League. He had a 6-2 record with the Orioles in 1950, and after a 17-13 season with the O's in 1951, he returned to the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Drews spent the 1952-53 seasons with the Phils, then was sold to Cincinnati in June, 1954. Overall with Philadelphia he had a 25-25 record. After his 4-4 stint with the Redlegs, Drews left the major leagues for good.

One of the worst-hitting pitchers in major league history, Drews was 1-for-the-1940s. Coming up to the majors in 1946, he had only one at bat that season. On May 31, 1947, he got a hit off Bob Feller, then went 0-24 for the rest of the season.  He went 0-48 in 1948, and 0-46 in 1949, ending the decade with a .010 BA. He was 0-2 at bat for the Yankees in the 1947 World Series.

Drews spent the 1950 season and most of 1951 in the International League, with the Baltimore Orioles. He batted .142.

When he was called up by the Phillies in September that season, he snapped his 0-for-84 slump on Sept. 22 with a single off Brookyln's Bud Podbielan in a game he won 7-3. For good measure, he singled off Carl Erskine on Sept. 30, raising his major league lifetime average to .027. 

In three more major league seasons, Drews batted .110 (1952), .119 (1953) and .125 (1953). His final lifetime major league batting average was .083. 

He pitched for six more seasons in the high minors with Oakland (1955), Buffalo (1956-58), Indianapolis (1958), Nashville (1958), Miami (1959), and Mexico City (1959-60). In the minor leagues between 1939-60, he batted around .154.

During his major league days, Drews had worked in the off-seasons as a Police Athletic League recreation director in New York City. After retiring from baseball, he took a similar position with the Hollywood, Fla., recreation department.

On Aug. 15, 1963, he was driving his daughter to an athletic engagement near Denia, Fla., when his car stalled. He got out and attempted to flag down a passing motorist, who struck and killed the 43-year-old former pitcher. That driver was charged with drunk driving.

On the day (Oct. 2, 1947) that he pitched in his first World Series game, Karl Drews' son, Ronald, was born. Karl set aside the Yankees cap he wore in the game for his son.

At the age of 11, the younger Drews pitched two consecutive no-hitters in Little League ball. He went on to star in baseball and basketball at Old Dominion, and in 1969 was drafted by the N.Y. Mets. 

Ron Drews never played pro ball, becoming a banking executive in Sarasota, Fla.

In the first round of the 1993 MLB draft, the New York Yankees made Matt Drews, Karl Drews' grandson, their first-round pick (#13 overall). After getting the call from the Yankees, Matt was presented with his grandfather's World Series cap by his father.

Matt Drews signed for a $620,000 bonus. He began his pro career by leading his Yankees' farm clubs in wins each of his first two seasons; 7-6 with Oneonta in 1994 and 15-7 with Tampa in 1995. He never again had a winning season. In 1996, he had a 1-14 record combined for Tampa, Norwich and Columbus in the Yankees' chain, and Jacksonville in the Tigers' organization. He was 8-13 in 1997 with Jacksonville and Toledo. In 1998-99 with Toledo he had a 7-31 record. His last pro season was a single game in 2000 at Durham, in the Devil Rays organization. 

Matt Drews retired from pro ball after seven seasons with a 38-71 record and 5.14 ERA. As a first-round Yankees draft pick, he appeared on numerous minor league and major league prospects cards during the late 1990s.

Karl Drews, for all of his 21 years in pro ball, appeared in only a handful of mainstream card sets: 1949 and 1953-54 Bowman, and 1952-53 Topps. 

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