Jerald Andrews: The man who is the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Jerald at the Hall

As a farm kid and St. Louis Cardinals fan, he cherished those summer Saturdays when his dad would drive the family to Bolivar’s quaint, downtown square and, while Mom shopped, father and son would listen to Harry Carey and Jack Buck call the Redbirds through the crackle of an AM car radio.

Years later, as a teen, he hustled to finish chores on the dairy farm because, “When the work was done there, I had a hay crew – three guys and myself, a tractor and a wagon – and we’d go haul hay for other people. And we were going to be the best, and that’s just all there was to it.”

Be the best. That phrase perfectly sums up the man sharing these boyhood stories, for his strong work ethic enabled his climb from rural America to attaining the American dream.

Jerald Andrews is President and Executive Director of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and doubles as Executive Director of the incredibly successful Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, one of the PGA’s Tour stops. Now in his 21st year in command of the Hall, Andrews has grown the 501c3 not-for-profit from its own humble beginnings into one of the most successful sports Halls across the country. And the PCCC? That’s a story unto itself.

And perhaps there is no better way to illustrate Andrews’ success than the vertical plaque – measuring about 4 feet in length – which the Hall’s Board of Trustees presented Andrews at the 2016 Enshrinement Ceremonies presented by Killian Construction.

From left, MSHOF President and Executive Director Jerald Andrews, wife Gianna, and Executive Vice President Marty Willadsen

From left, MSHOF President and Executive Director Jerald Andrews, wife Giana, and Executive Vice President Marty Willadsen

Presented along with a hefty financial gift, the display reads “Thank You” below the MSHOF shield logo, with the words “20 Years” emblazoned vertically down the right side, and features inscribed words of appreciation from 17 Trustees.

“Congratulations and thank you to the man who built the best state Sports Hall of Fame in the nation,” is the lead quote, inscribed from James Leon Combs, the Board Chairman.

“From a youngster attaining All COC recognition at center in football, to an outstanding family man, to the Executive Director of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame – it has been my pleasure watching you succeed. You are special, Jud! I am very proud of you,” was the next entry, from Andrews’ Bolivar High School football coach, Doug Potts. “Jud” was Andrews’ boyhood name among his friends.

The surprise presentation was organized by the Board, which arranged for Andrews’ wife, Giana, and their four daughters, sons-in-law and Andrews’ mother to purposely arrive after the ceremony got under way, so as not to tip Andrews.

“I know of no one who could or would, year after year, raise the money necessary to fund all activities and then personally oversee them,” Combs said. “His work ethic, dependability and intelligence combine to make him a one-of-a-kind man.”

This for a man whose passion for the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is unmatched. Put it this way: the Hall’s successes in recent years – the Hall expanding its events and reach, Andrews leading the record $1 million-plus campaign for the PCCC in 2014 – comes six years after Andrews was, in his own words, on his death bed.

The January 2010 Enshrinement Ceremonies was the only one he has ever missed, only because Andrews fell into a three-week coma just days before the event. (Of course, proving he is the ultimate salesman, Andrews executed one last act before slipping into the coma – he sold Dan Nelson, a board member, a 10-seat table for the ceremony.)

“As I sat there Sunday night after I received the plaque, I thought of what I said and what I didn’t say,” Andrews said. “I couldn’t help but reflect back six years, knowing I missed the Enshrinement that year and was fortunate to still be here and to still be able to function. I thought of all the great things that have happened in the last six years of my life, such as the birth of five more grandchildren.”

Great success

To understand the Trustees’ gifts, it’s important to understand the turnaround Andrews has led since his first day on the job on October 18, 1995, slightly more than a year after founder John Q. Hammons erected the Hall in southeast Springfield.

Andrews himself changed out 66 light bulbs in his first week, and also mowed the grounds. “Bad choice,” he said of mowing duties. “It was like cutting hay. I thought, I’ve got to be the highest-paid lawn boy in Springfield.’”

At the time, there were two volunteers and a part-timer worker, Betty Rigg and Juanita Giehlman, and only one event planned – the second January Enshrinement. Even his first event, a baseball breakfast featuring none other than Whitey Herzog, drew only 137 people.

“In the second year on the job (at the Hall of Fame), we were in the black and we’ve been in the black ever since,” Andrews said. “But it wasn’t until about 1998-1999 when were in a position that we had enough happening.”

Now look at the schedule and success: Two major Enshrinements (one in January, another in autumn) annually draw roughly 1,500 each; the Stan Musial Championship at The Club at Porto Cima golf course on Lake of the Ozarks; five celebrity golf classics throughout the state, a sporting clays shoot as well as luncheons for the openings of the baseball, football and basketball seasons in addition to a Women in Sports Luncheon.

Along the way, Andrews’ idea of a Legends Walkway became reality and is now home to more than 30 bronze statues of some of the state’s sports greats such as Stan Musial, Norm Stewart, Len Dawson, George Brett, Ozzie Smith and Payne Stewart.

The Payne Stewart statue was one of the first on the Legends Walkway.

The Payne Stewart statue was one of the first on the Legends Walkway.

Since 1997, Andrews has been Executive Director of the PCCC, which has generated almost $13.8 million for local children’s charities in the past 26 years – most of the money raised during his tenure as Andrews kept and expanded the business coalition.

Businesses such as Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper, Killian Construction and Price Cutter Supermarkets have been sponsors for either the Hall or PCCC for at least 18 years. Andrews also has built a staff of dedicated workaholics numbering seven.

All of which hasn’t simply kept the Hall’s doors open; it’s turned the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the PCCC into powerhouses.

Andrews' family Christmas card

Andrews’ family Christmas card

“My passion for this job is no different than anything I’ve ever done,” Andrews said. He later added, “When I was a kid playing football for Doug Potts, as you left the locker room, there was a sign over the door that said, ‘Do your best.’ We’d all jump up and hit that sign.

“That’s the way I always tried to perform. It’s the way I raised my kids. This is fun work, and it’s easy to be passionate because, like in the case of the Price Cutter, it’s helping so many young people through the charities.”

Built brick by brick

In essence, Andrews is one of the most fascinating people to ever walk across the sports page.

If he were in baseball, a veteran scout might scribble in his notes that Andrews grades as a five-tool big-leaguer. He exhibits the smooth leadership of a savvy general manager, the trained eye of an old-school skipper, plus the bat of a power hitter who also has tremendous defensive range. All that and he possesses the all-important people skills of a great statesman.

It’s a description that isn’t at all far-fetched, given Andrews basically saved the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame from early retirement. And perhaps his skills were what Hammons himself envisioned in Andrews when the hotelier and philanthropist put him in charge in October 1995.

Before his arrival, the Hall was losing $10,000 a month and lost $38,000 in his first year on the job, Andrews recalled. “But we made enough money that first year that we didn’t have to borrow money,” Andrews said, adding that he used his own credit card to cover bills.

Enhrinement Ceremonies presented by Killian Construction, featuring the Class of 2016, drew almost 1,600.

Enhrinement Ceremonies presented by Killian Construction, featuring the Class of 2016, drew almost 1,600 in January.

It’s amazing the way Andrews found his way here. Andrews was kicking the tires on launching his own business after leaving Southwest Baptist University. That’s when a former university colleague, Jim Sells, called to say Hammons was seeking a director for the Hall of Fame after then-director Med Park left to run a state-supported Hall in Georgia.

Andrews still remembers meeting Hammons at a corner table of the University Plaza Hotel restaurant. “He was there with two or three other guys – pretty intimidating – and I walked back to the table and introduced myself to him,” Andrews said. “He said, ‘If what I hear about you is true, we’re going to make a deal.’ And I’ve often said that, not only did we make that deal, we made a lot of deals over the next 15 years.”

Andrews certainly wasn’t allergic to rolling up his sleeves and working to improve. He had done the same in youth sports. A Cardinals fan who idolized All-Star third baseman Ken Boyer, Andrews learned to hit in youth leagues and became one of the area’s more feared hitters. In football, Potts, the Bolivar High School coach, moved him to center, and Andrews worked his way into becoming an All-Central Ozark Conference selection.

Farm work? ‘Nuf said.

And then there were his 20-plus years at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, where Andrews rose to Executive Vice President and oversaw 90 employees.

Why it grew

The Class of 2016 poster

The Class of 2016 poster, drawn by Dayne Dudley

Attention to detail is the simplest way to describe the Hall’s success under Andrews’ leadership. For induction ceremonies alone, the Hall commissions Tulsa, Oklahoma-based artist Dayne Dudley for an artist rendering that turns into hundreds of prints. Plus, there are trading cards, calendars – all with numerous sponsors – and a printed program full of congratulatory ads and detailed bios of each inductee.

The Hall of Fame managing the PCCC and the development of the Legends Walkway – plus additional events such as golf tournaments and luncheons — expanded the Hall of Fame’s footprint and financial success. The Hall began to hit its stride in the late 90s.

“Us managing the PGA Tour’s Tour has really been a plus, in that it introduced us to several folks we didn’t know previously,” Andrews said. “And the reverse of that, it introduced a lot of Hall of Fame friends to the tournament.”

The PCCC has grown to include hundreds of business sponsors in addition to roughly 1,000 volunteers. Within a 10-day window of August, it now features a dozen pro-ams, a women’s golf and fashion show, kids fun day, Habitat Home Run and Harvest Moon Festival, which is among two major auction fundraisers. A brand new Corvette Stingray, a brand new Ford Mustang and $10,000 also are among sweepstakes prizes for fans. And when Andrews set a $1 million fundraising goal for the PCCC in 2014, the tournament exceeded it.

Then there is the Legends Walkway of bronze busts. It began in the late 1990s and, in the year 2000, featured a bronze statue of golf great and Springfield native Payne Stewart a year after his death in a tragic plane accident. The Walkway has grown to more than 30 bronzes. “The Boy and The Man” statue depicting Cardinals great Stan Musial was unveiled in April 2005, while a Norm Stewart life-size statue – of the coach on the sidelines, storming out of a chair – went up in 2012.

The bronze statue of former Lady Bears great Jackie Stiles on the Legends Walkway.

The bronze statue of former Lady Bears great Jackie Stiles on the Legends Walkway.

“It enabled us to go back to some people that had been inducted in the Missouri State Sports Hall of Fame since 1951 to the early 1990s, or people who were just great names that needed to be circled back in again,” Andrews said. “After that, you just kept trying to do new things.”

Large crowd sizes for breakfasts and then luncheons – the Tony La Russa Missouri Sports Legends luncheon in May 2015 drew almost 900 – has led to ballroom rentals of the nearby University Plaza Convention Center and the Ramada Inn Oasis Convention Center.

Most of the time, former sports stars are the ones honored. That was, until the 2016 January Enshrinement Ceremonies, in which the Board of Trustees surprised Andrews.

Thus, a “Thank You” plaque in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame seems more than appropriate.

“I’m taken aback by this a little bit. Thank you, Leon and Gordon. I’m moved by this,” Andrews told Combs and longtime Trustee Gordon Kinne on the podium. Andrews later added: “I was definitely surprised by it. The years have passed quickly. You don’t do as much as we’ve done without making errors along the way. But overall I feel real good about our work. I’m just grateful I’m still able to do it.”

What a career it has been.