Hanover's Sherdel was a hard-luck World Series pitcher

Barry Sparks
For The York Dispatch

Bill "Wee Willie" Sherdel, a native of Midway, Adams County, was a hard-luck World Series hurler for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The southpaw, who grew up in Hanover, won 165 games in his 15-year career. He started two games in the 1926 World and two games in the 1928 World Series, all against the powerful New York Yankees. He was saddled with an 0-4 record in the Fall Classic, despite a respectable 3.26 ERA.

"Being selected to start the opening games of the 1926 and 1928 World Series shows you how valuable Sherdel's managers believed him to be," said Hanover's John Coulson, author of "Wee Willie Sherdel: The Cardinals' Winningest Left-hander. "Sherdel was the victim of critical errors and poor hitting by his teammates."      

Bill "Wee Willie" Sherdel, an Adams County native, pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1926 and 1928 World Series.

His first Series start: Baseball fans in Hanover, Gettysburg and York gathered around their radios at 1:30 p.m on Saturday, Oct. 2, 1926, when Sherdel, a 16-game winner, took the mound in Yankee Stadium to face a talent-laden lineup featuring Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and Bob Meusel.

Sherdel was nervous pitching in front of 61,658 fans, the second largest crowd in the history of a sporting event at that time.  It was a long way from pitching for the Hanover Raiders in the Class D Blue Ridge League.

The lefty pitched seven innings and allowed only six hits and two runs. But, wildness in the first inning cost him, as he surrendered three walks and a single. The Yankees won 2-1.

Sherdel started Game 5 in St. Louis. In the top of the sixth inning with the Cardinals ahead 2-1, St. Louis outfielders misplayed a ball, allowing Gehrig to reach second with a double. The Cardinals held a 2-1 lead.  An infield single and a pop-up behind second scored the tying run.

In top of 10th, Mark Koenig singled and Sherdel uncorked a wild pitch. He then intentionally walked Ruth and Gehrig to load the bases. Lazzeri drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly, tagging Sherdel with the loss.  Hard-luck Bill deserved to win 2-1 in 9 innings.

Not enough: St. Louis catcher Bob O'Farrell said, "The great arm of Bill, his lion-hearted courage and his fine pitching brain weren't enough to whip a Yankee ball club who seemed to be wearing nothing but four-leaf clovers."

Two years later, Sherdel started Game 1 of the 1928 World Series on Oct. 4 in Yankee Stadium.  He surrendered an RBI-single to Gehrig in the first inning and a two-run homer to Meusel in the fourth.  The Cards lost, 4-1, as Sherdel gave up four hits in seven innings with little run support.

In Game 4, Ruth homered off Sherdel in the fourth inning to tie the game, 1-1. The Babe came to the plate again in the seventh inning with one out and the Cardinals winning 2-1.  Sherdel delivered two quick strikes. He snuck a third strike past Ruth, who had stepped into the batter's box, but umpire Cy Pfirman ruled time out.  All four umpires, the Cardinals infielders and Ruth gathered around the mound as tempers flared. 

The quick pitch had been legal in the National League that season, but not in the American League.  Before the Series, officials ruled the pitch could not be used. Sherdel did not believe it was a quick pitch.  He was highly upset he hadn't gotten the strikeout, and it affected his performance. 

After he threw two balls, Ruth smashed his second homer of the game. Two pitches later, Gehrig followed with a homer. Meusel singled, and Cards manager Bill McKechnie replaced Sherdel. Fans gave Bill a standing ovation.

Afterward, Cardinals owner Sam Breadon said the delivery was legal and the umpire's decision was unfair.

Coulson said Babe Ruth summed up Sherdel's World Series experience best.   The Bambino said, "The tough-luck champion of the Series is Willie Sherdel.  Unless I had seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it possible for any pitcher to pitch four such games as he has pitched against the Yankees and lose them all."