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Miles City’s Mr. Mayor played in the big leagues

A fun thing about writing is when, while researching the topic of your project, you learn something new. That happened to me while I was trying to get more insight into Dave McNally’s successful fight to overturn baseball's reserve clause.

My research led me to a 2022 book, Major League Rebels: Baseball Battles Over Workers' Rights and American Empire. Near the end of the book, authors Robert Ellis and Peter Dreier mentioned numerous baseball players who, after leaving the game, entered politics.

The most famous of these was Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning. After he retired in 1971, Bunning progressed from serving on a city council in his native Kentucky, to the Kentucky state Senate, to the U, S. House of Representatives, and finally to the U.S. Senate. He served two terms as a senator before he decided not to seek re-election in 2010.

Ellis and Dreier included a long list of former big leaguers who have served as mayors. That’s where I learned something, that one of my Montana hometowns, Miles City, had Wyman Andrus as its mayor.

Admittedly, Andrus doesn’t appear in any list of major-league greats. Nevertheless, he was an interesting personage of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Andrus appeared in a single game, at third base, for the Providence Grays, an early major league team. But, as an article in the Society for American Baseball Research journal pointed out, Andrus became better known after his professional baseball days ended “as a distinguished leader of medicine and politics in an old west cattle town”—Miles City.

Born October 14, 1858, in Orono, an Ontario town, Andrus was the son of a New Yorker in the lumber and sawmill businesses. His parents moved to Canada while the Grand Trunk Railway was being built.

Andrus started playing baseball in Canada and then, according to a SABR article written by Montana authors Skylar Browning and Jeremy Watson, he joined a professional team in Indianapolis. No records could be found of his time there. Andrus then caught on with the Minneapolis Dudes of the Northwestern League in 1884.

He played shortstop and batted second; he appeared in 45 games and scored 41 runs on 48 hits.

The future Miles City mayor got ink in a sports publication of the time, Sporting Life, which in its September 3, 1885, issue wrote, “Andrus is hitting and playing short second to none.” By then playing for the Hamilton, Ontario, Clippers, Andrus led the Canadian League in doubles, runs, hits, batting average, and total bases.

Andrus made his big-league debut with the Providence Greys on September 15, 1885. Playing in front of 1,500 spectators at Indianapolis' seventh Street Park, the Grays took on the St. Louis Maroons. The game box score mistakenly listed Andrus as Andrews, batting sixth and filling in at third base for Jerry Denny, who apparently was suspended for being drunk. Denny is known for being one of the last baseball players who made barehanded catches during his entire career—he never wore a glove.

Andrus played an error-free game, completing two outs with three assists. He went 0-for-4 at the plate and struck out once. Providence won, 6-0, and that ended Andrus' big-league career. He continued playing for Hamilton in 1886 when he moved to the outfield. He finished in the top ten in the league in runs and stolen bases.

On June 19, 1886, against Oswego, Andrus banged-bagged a home run off Mike Mattimore, who is one of three major-leaguers buried in Butte.

Andrus became involved in an on-field fracas in mid-July that year. He hit a home run as Hamilton rallied in the ninth inning with two runs. Teammate “Old Reliable” John Rainey hit a home run that would have tied the game, but the umpire called him out for not touching second base. That ended the game, but an angry Andrus hit the ump. That started a near-riot that the Sporting Life called “an indescribable scene.” Police mistakenly arrested shortstop Nate Kellogg for assault in connection with the incident; he was released later that evening.

Andrus' baseball career continued with a stop at Portland, Maine, in the New England League. He was noted for his outfield play and received this assessment from Sporting Life: “Andrus is a good one judging from the showing he makes in practice, and although slight and youthful in appearance (he was five-foot-six and weighed 155 pounds), he can slug a ball as well as any man on the team.”

In 1887, Andrus led the league in runs, with 165; hits, 233; and walks, 77. He helped the Clippers more by stealing 122 bases in 103 games.

Another good season unfolded for him in 1888, when, playing again for Hamilton, Andrus scored 102 runs and stole 89 bases in 110 games. He also hit his sixth career home run that year and got credit for assisting on a triple play.

Andrus also competed in a 100-yard sprint along Lake St. Claire that was set up by officials of a local railway. As the SABR writer put it, it’s not known how Andrus did in the race. “But speed must have ran (sic) in the family as Wyman’s son, Edson—known as the Custer County (Miles City) Comet—would be an alternate on the 1924 Olympic team.”

Andrus later was on the roster for teams in Buffalo, Montreal, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, Youngstown, Manchester, Jamestown, Seattle, and Kansas City.

Finally, at age 33, knowing that his baseball skills were fading, Andrus turned down an offer to manage the Wichita team. He decided to finish medical school at Toronto University. He wrapped his studies in June 1893 and, armed with his degree, Dr. Andrus moved to Billings. Not long after that, he settled in Miles City. He married Sarah Corma Ireland in November 1895, and they had two children, Edson and Kathleen.

Sporting Life, in December 1895, said that “a careful mode of living” allowed Andrus to remain “in the front ranks of the diamond,” besides being “a flourishing physician” in the fabled Montana town at the end of the Texas cattle drives of the 1880s.

Andrus, a Republican, was elected an alderman in Miles City and then mayor, serving five terms from 1899-1909. He represented Custer County in the state legislature for two terms, and he was named president of the Montana State Medical Association in 1922. He also served as surgeon for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and was a member of the Montana Commission for the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915. Furthermore, he was the official Custer County physician for two terms and was the county health officer for three terms.

Interestingly, Andrus was the first person in Miles City to own an automobile.

Amidst his busy life, Andrus didn’t give up baseball. He umped local games and was president of the Miles City baseball club in 1902.

The Yellowstone Journal said Andrus “had not forgotten his first love, as it is not an uncommon sight for the people of Miles City to see their trusted medical advisor and worthy mayor in the regulation flannel suit stopping hot grounders and ‘lining them out’ when the local club is in a tight place.”

Andrus died in 1935 at age 76. He is buried in Miles City.

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Jamie Larson