September 28, 2023

Wee Willie Sherdel: Most Underrated St. Louis Cardinal?

March 8, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Wee Willie SherdelJohn Coulson, author of Wee Willie Sherdel: The Cardinals’ Winningest Left-Hander, says the pitcher may be the most underrated St. Louis Cardinal of all time.

Sherdel won 153 games for the Cardinals between 1918-1930.

“That fact that Sherdel’s record has stood for all these years is amazing,” says 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.”

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

Sherdel is third on the Cardinals list for games pitched, fourth in innings pitched, and most complete games.

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

Sherdel’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 due to 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.

“Sherdel served a dual role during his career, much like John Smoltz, Goose Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley,” says the Hanover, Pa., author. Sherdel was born and lived less than two miles from Hanover.

“Like many players of his era, Sherdel’s achievements have faded with time. He was, however, an integral part of the Cardinals’ pitching staff for many years and highly respected by his teammates and opponents,” adds Coulson.

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,” says his biographer. “He didn’t brag or seek out media attention. My goal is to make sure Cardinal fans are familiar with him and his achievements. He definitely deserves more recognition.”

Coulson is campaigning for Sherdel to be enshrined in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in the veteran player category. The Red Ribbon committee names one veteran player (who has been retired at least 40 years) to the HOF each year.

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