Kittle managed the Estrellas club in San Pedro for many years and has known Andujar since he was a youngster. "I'm not sure why so many good players come from there," says Kittle. "Maybe it's because while their moms and dads worked in the sugarcane factories, the kids played all day. A lot of the competitive spirit comes from their bloodlines. There's a little Arab blood mixed in there, you know. Also, a lot of the good players, like Jack Andujar, stay in San Pedro and teach the kids. Plus the stadium is made available."
Joaquin—only Kittle is allowed to call him Jack—was an only child. His father and mother were too poor to give him a proper home, so his paternal grandfather, Saturnino, and grandmother, Juana, raised him.
Basketball, not baseball, was his first love as a boy. "To be very sincere with you, I was a very good player," he says. "But in the Dominican, basketball 20 years ago was nothing. I started playing baseball when I was 10 years old. I learned it in the streets with a rag ball and broomstick." Even at 10, Andujar says, he wanted to be a professional.
In 1969, at age 16, he got his wish when he, Santo Alcala, who has since pitched for the Expos, and Arturo DeFreitas, who has had a few cups of coffee with the Reds, signed with Cincinnati.
In the early years of his pro career, Andujar got a lot of help from Kittle, who became his manager during the winter. "The first season I managed Estrellas, I gave Jack a tryout and I liked his arm," says Kittle. "I got him to come over the top, and he began to produce. The next year I made him one of my starters, and the third season he was named native pitcher of the year.
"At night, we used to talk in the sidewalk cafe at the Hotel Macorix, me, Jack and [former Mariner] Juan Bernhardt, who was Jack's buddy. I told them what it was like in the majors, and what it would take to get there. I told them they'd have to do as they were told."
Although Andujar's minor league statistics weren't at all outstanding, the Reds thought he would make the major leagues in 1975. But lack of control—of his pitches and his temper—kept him down in the minors. In October 1975, on the recommendation of Houston's pitching coach, Hub Kittle, the Astros traded pitchers Carlos Alfonso and Luis Sanchez to Cincinnati for Andujar. However, Kittle was out of the Astro organization before Andujar threw his first pitch in a Houston uniform.
Andujar became an immediate sensation with the Astros. In his fifth and sixth starts, he pitched two-hitters. Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson, whose team was one of Andujar's victims, said at the time, "Every dog will have his day." Andujar finished the year 9-10, three of his victories having come against the Reds. In 1977 he was off to a fast start, with 10 wins before the All-Star break, and Anderson named the dog to the National League All-Star team. But a pulled hamstring kept Andujar out of the game, and he had only one more victory the rest of the year. He was shuffled between the bullpen and the rotation in 1978, but in '79 he again made the All-Star team off his 11-5 start. Still, he finished the season at 12-12. Andujar, who never saw eye to eye with Houston Manager Bill Virdon or Pitching Coach Mel Wright, lit candles the next year and prayed that he would be traded. He was heard to say, "I'm going to Yugoslavia. See you sometime."
While Andujar's career languished, his stature as a character grew. There was the spilled milk incident, and after another loss he showered with his uniform on. He duked it out with his best friend, Cesar Cedeño, and then said, "I was only trying to keep my heavyweight championship." At spring training in Cocoa Beach, Fla., Andujar stepped out of the batter's box because a butterfly distracted him. Coach Bunny Mick asked him what he would do if that happened in the regular season. "No problem," said Andujar. "No butterflies in Dome."
While in Houston, Andujar also developed a taste for the Old West. His favorite TV show became Bonanza, and he still wears cowboy hats and listens to a tape of a Houston country and western station on his car stereo. His pitching trademark is right out of the Old West, too. After a particularly gratifying strikeout, he will point his index finger at the batter and go bang.