The man who struck out Babe Ruth in the 1926 World Series had humble beginnings in Hanover.
Bill "Wee Willie" Sherdel is the winningest left-handed pitcher and fourth all-time winner in St. Louis Cardinals history, serving the team for 14 seasons. He pitched the third-most games and fourth-most innings. Sherdel played among the greats, like Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, and Rogers Hornsby.
Despite his accolades, Sherdel never became a household name in the way his colleagues did. A baseball buff and author teamed up with Wee Willie's grandson to write a book to change that.
John G. Coulson, with the help of John T. Sherdel, penned a 402-page book on Bill Sherdel's life and career. They held a private book launch on Wednesday in McSherrystown, where Bill spent most of his adult life after growing up in Hanover.
"I was doing all I knew to keep his memory alive," John Sherdel told family and friends at the book launch.
Although known for his deadly slow ball, Sherdel's talent didn't stop at the mound. He boasted a .337 batting average and fourth-most career home runs in 1923. He earned the nickname "Wee Willie" for his small stature. Sherdel stood 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 160 pounds, according to John.
Growing up in the same house as his grandfather on Ridge Avenue, John developed a "special bond" with his "papaw." He spent his days catching balls thrown from the hand that earned a World Series ring.
"He'd make me run for them," John said with a smile.
That 1926 World Series ring was given to Sherdel by pilot Charles Lindbergh just after he completed his solo transatlantic flight, according to John.
It wasn't until after his grandfather died in 1968 that 16-year-old John learned the full scope of his papaw's career and began collecting bits and pieces of his history.
"He never talked about it," John said.
He started with the Hanover Raiders, a now-extinct minor league team, and the topic of Coulson's first book.
Coulson first connected with John when he called him about devoting a chapter of "Hanover Raiders: Minor League Baseball in Hanover, Pennsylvania" to Wee Willie. Coulson said the more he learned about the lefty, the more interesting the story became. He knew Wee Willie deserved a book of his own.
Sherdel pitched the first games against Ruth and Gehrig in the 1926 and 1928 World Series. In those same years, Sherdel received honorable mention in MVP voting, according to Coulson.
He said Ruth grew to respect Sherdel and even visited him in McSherrystown.
"Wee Willie Sherdel" is available online at books.friesenpress.com.