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Saturday Morning Quarterback

Andy Reed • Dec 15, 2015 at 11:24 AM

Andrews played big role in LHS sports history

One of the more interesting inductees into the Lebanon High Sports Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago is Jim Andrews.

I’ve gone to church with Jim for many years. In fact, when I was a boy, my family and I sat a couple of pews behind his parents, Foster and Nell Andrews. His daughter and niece worked at this newspaper years ago.

What I didn’t learn until the last couple of years is how good an athlete he was and the role he played in LHS sports history. When Tom Marshall, Wilson County’s only NBA player, was honored by his Mt. Juliet alma mater in the winter of 2011, Jim emailed me and said he had played against Marshall in basketball and football, including a Thanksgiving 1948 football game between the Blue Devils and Golden Bears for the Wilson County championship at Alumni Field, where Sellars Funeral Home is now being rebuilt.

Marshall told me he was knocked out of the game with a broken tooth, went to the hospital to stop some bleeding and returned to the contest, where another tooth was knocked out. His sister, MJ principal Wilna Alexander, came out of the stands and told Coach Forrest Stokes to take Marshall out of the game.

As it turned out, Marshall’s Lebanon rival was Andrews, in both football and basketball.

“Mt. Juliet had a good team, for them,” Jim told me Friday. “They were a small school. they beat Watertown worse than we did.”

According to Jim, Mt. Juliet challenged Lebanon to a game for the county crown. The Blue Devils, easily the largest school in Wilson County, had been around a .500 team that season.

“It was billed as a battle between myself and Tom,” said Jim, crediting the Democrat’s G. Frank Burns with building up the matchup.

The game itself was sort of a dud, won by the Blue Devils 28-0, but it was far from uneventful.

“Tom was a good passer,” Andrews said. “We concentrated on Tom because he was al they had. We kept a strong rush on him.

“I tackled him high and he went over on his back. My shoulder pad just hit him right in the mouth and he lost some teeth.”

Like Marshall, Andrews is also around 6-4 and, after surviving a couple of bouts with cancer in the last dozen years [including one last year], looks hale and hearty at 82. When the weather’s good, he can still be found on the links at Lebanon Golf & Country Club.

“Sometimes when the weather’s not too good,” he quipped. “We’re hard core.”

His bio for the Hall of Fame says he won 12 varsity letters over three sports, earning the nickname “Moon-greaser” for his leaping ability. He was also a captain in all three sports [I’ll get to that third sport further down the column]. Voted “Best Boy Athlete” by his classmates, he received a basketball/football scholarship to Middle Tennessee State.

That 1948 meeting [Marshall was a junior and Andrews a senior] was the final football game between the schools until 1977, by which time MJHS had grown in size as a result of the population explosion which turned West Wilson in general and Mt. Juliet in particular from rural farmland to a Nashville bedroom community.

Whether Andrews’ tackle was the reason for the hiatus or if it was because of other factors, it did have some repercussions during the upcoming basketball season.

Unlike football, Mt. Juliet had success against Lebanon in hoops, thanks in no small part to Marshall, whose fellow MJHS students say 60 years later could play above the rim and shoot far from it.

“I couldn’t handle him,” Andrews admits. “He had moves I had never seen before.”

The teams met at Lebanon early in the season. But it was the late-season rematch before an overflow crowd at Mt. Juliet’s gym where matters came to a head.

Andrews had been battling bronchitis and could hardly talk. The coach was planning to hold him out, but he was determined to play. He was public enemy No. 1 in West Wilson.

“Mt. Juliet thought, at the time, I had mistreated Tom and they didn’t like me at all,” Andrews said.

During the game, Andrews believes it was during the second half, he got into an altercation with Golden Bear Jackie Hays.

Alexander came out of the stands and grabbed Andrews by the jersey. Because of the bronchitis, Andrews couldn’t say anything. He was thrown out of the game by the referee to the cheers of the crowd, but Hays remained in the game.

Interestingly, Jim’s grandson, Ben Dudley [now an LHS teacher and soccer coach], is married to Channing Vail, a former Mt. Juliet softball player whose grandfather is – Jackie Hays.

Andrews said he and Hays got along fine at their grandchildren’s wedding last year.

The day after the Hall induction ceremony, I reported in this space a comment attributed to legendary girls’ basketball coach Campbell Brandon [who was also inducted that night], that boys’ coach Hester Gibbs [also a 2012 inductee] had come the closest to coaching an LHS baseball team to the TSSAA State Tournament, which would have been in 1961.

Jim said he was part of an LHS team in the spring of 1948 which went to the State Tournament and won a game or two before being eliminated by Father Ryan. He was as good in the grand ol’ game as he was on the gridiron and basketball court. He went on to help his Navy service team win the North African championship in 1954.

That 1948 baseball team was coached by Hoyal Johnson, who has a place in LHS lore as coaching the first undefeated team in school history, in 1945, as an unpaid, non-faculty volunteer.

“We, the players, prevailed on Hoyal to coach us in baseball,” Jim’s email says. “He had never played the game and really had no interest in it but yielded to our pleas. [He] bought a book on baseball, read it and took over.”

Those Blue Devils played home games at the old fairgrounds on Coles Ferry Pike, about where the Jimmy Floyd Family Center and Lebanon Senior Citizens Center stand today. Baird Park, which became home to the Blue Devils for many years until the new campus opened this year, wasn’t developed until the mid 1950s.

“I can’t remember our won/lost record, but we qualified for the State and made a credible showing there,” said Jim, who noted only two other players [Billy Swindell and Carlos Lannom] are still alive.

“[Johnson’s] primary strategy was run,” said Andrews, who noted the team’s weakness was lack of pitching depth, which caught up with the Devils in the State. “We’d get on base and go automatically.”

I’m glad Jim sent that email. Until now, I didn’t know of any LHS baseball teams before the ‘50s. I don’t believe anyone who has been associated with Blue Devil baseball in recent decades know about those teams in the late ‘40s.

A wonderful thing about the LHS Hall of Fame, or any hall of fame, it honors people for past achievements and provides an avenue for stories to be told of days gone by before their voices are silenced forever and the doors to untold history are slammed shut, never again to open.

Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at andy.reed@lebanondemocrat.com.

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