Hanover author pushes for York Area Sports Hall of Famer Sherdel to get Cardinals honor

  • "Wee Willie" Sherdel pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1918 through 1930, winning 153 games.
  • The Hanover High graduate is the winningest left-handed pitcher in Cardinals history.
  • Hanover author John Coulson is pushing to have Sherdel picked for the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
Hanover High School graduate "Wee Willie" Sherdel won 153 games with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Hanover's John Coulson, the author of "Wee Willie Sherdel: The Cardinals' Winningest Left-Hander," says the pitcher may be the most underrated St. Louis Cardinal of all time.

The 5-foot, 10-inch Sherdel, a Hanover High School graduate who was born in Midway, sandwiched between Hanover and McSherrystown, won 153 games for some standout Cardinals teams between 1918-1930. 

"That fact that Sherdel's record has stood for all these years is amazing," said Coulson, who is campaigning for Sherdel to be enshrined in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in the veteran player category.

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John Coulson

The Cardinals have had some outstanding southpaws in Harry Brecheen (128 wins), Max Lanier (101), Howie Pollet (97), Steve Carlton (77), and John Tudor (62), but none won more career games with the Cardinals than Sherdel.

A Red Ribbon committee names one veteran player (who has been retired at least 40 years) and two modern players, voted on by the fans, every year.

Sherdel is fifth on the Cardinals' list of winningest pitchers. He trails only Bob Gibson (251), Jesse Haines (210), Adam Wainwright (184) and Bob Forsch (163). 

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Charlie Jacobs, chairman of the York Area Sports Hall of Fame, reads a proclamation while John Sherdel of New Oxford, second from right, and his family listen before the York Revolution game at PeoplesBank Park Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. John's grandfather, "Wee Willie" Sherdel, was posthumously inducted into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame before the Revs' game. Sherdel remains the Cardinals' winningest left-handed pitcher ever. John and other members of the family, wearing Cardinals' jerseys, were at the game for the presentation. Bill Kalina photo

He is third on the Cardinals list for games pitched, fourth in innings pitched and most complete games. Sherdel was selected for the York Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.

"Like many players of his era, Sherdel's achievements have faded with time," said Coulson, who has written to each member of the Red Ribbon committee, making the case for the deceased hurler. "Sherdel was, however, an integral part of the Cardinals' pitching staff for many years and highly respected by his teammates and opponents."

Coulson was encouraged when the St. Louis Post Dispatch named Sherdel the 16th best pitcher in St. Louis Cardinals history in 2020. He, however, rates Sherdel higher.

"Bill Sherdel was very modest and humble," Coulson said. "He didn't brag or seek out media attention." 

More:Hanover High School graduate 'Wee Willie' Sherdel to join York Area Sports Hall of Fame

A dominating lefty: Sherdel was one of the dominating left-handers of his era.  He averaged 17 wins a season from 1925-1928, including 21 wins in 1928. He led the National League in won-loss percentage (15-6, .714) in 1925.

The southpaw's value to the club was reflected when manager Rogers Hornsby tabbed him to be the opening-game pitcher in the 1926 and 1928 World Series against Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the powerful New York Yankees. The Cards' staff included Hall of Famers Grover Cleveland Alexander and Jesse Haines.

Despite a 3.26 ERA against the mighty Yankees, the hard-luck lefty was 0-4 in October because of critical errors and poor hitting by his teammates.

Sherdel might be higher on the Cardinals' all-time win list if he hadn't served as a reliever and spot starter early in his career under manager Branch Rickey, according to Coulson.

Even though he became a regular starter later on, he still came out of the bullpen to finish games. He led the National League in saves in 1920, 1927 and 1928. He was rated tops in clutch pitching in 1924 and third in 1925.

Local roots: Sherdel's roots in the Hanover/McSherrystown area run deep. After leaving Hanover High School, Sherdel pitched for the minor league Hanover Hornets, soon to be the Hanover Raiders, in the newly-formed Class D Blue Ridge League.

In 1915, as the youngest pitcher in the league, Sherdel went 15-3, while also leading the league in hitting at .368. The next year he went 14-9 before being sold to the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association.

With the Brewers, Sherdel caught the attention of the Cardinals. He eventually earned a roster spot with the Cardinals in 1918, beginning a long major league career.

Sherdel died in 1968 at age 72 in McSherrystown, where he spent his adult years after baseball. There is a local baseball field named in his honor.

In 1977 he was inducted posthumously into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. Now Coulson would like to see him gain entrance into another hall of fame.

"My goal is to make sure Cardinal fans are familiar with Sherdel and his achievements. He definitely deserves more recognition," Coulson said.

The St. Louis Cardinals will announce its 2022 Hall of Fame class in May. 

Reach Barry Sparks at sports@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ydsports.