moving from eighth to fourth place in 1938, the Cincinnati Reds were
favored to keep going and win the National League pennant in 1939. But
there was a chink in the armor. The team needed a third baseman.
had been the regular since 1935, but he was only an average fielder and
a .250 hitter. Manager Bill McKechnie desperately needed to replace him.
the Philadelphia Athletics were having problems with their crackerjack
third baseman, Bill Werber. He was rebelling against a $2,000 salary cut
and had not reported to spring training. Werber was determined to stay
home until he got the salary he wanted.
Philadelphia owner and manager Connie Mack began shopping Werber around
to American League clubs but found no one wanting a third baseman who
had batted only .259 the year before. Finally Mack asked waivers on
Werber to see if any National League teams had an interest. When the
Reds were informed, McKechnie and general manager Warren Giles
immediately went after Werber. They believed he would be the answer to
and they were right.
a product of Duke University, had gained a reputation in the American
League as a somewhat haughty individual, a trouble-maker, a big-headed
pop-off who had trouble getting along with his teammates.
made a different kind of impression when he was sold to the Reds and
reported to the team in Tampa for the end of spring training.
expected to see a cross between a dyspeptic wildcat and corner-lot
bully," sportswriter Whitney Martin wrote after the Reds won
back-to-back pennants In 1939 and 1940. "It was a little discomforting
to see a dapper, alert young fellow come bouncing up and respond to a
greeting with a friendly grin and an I-mean-it handshake. The little guy
just oozed personality, and you know that no matter what he might be
like on a ball field he'd be right at home in a top-hat-and-tails
spent three years in Cincinnati, batting .289 and .277 In the
pennant-winning seasons. He led the
National League in runs scored in 1939 with 115, one of the highest
single-season performances in Cincinnati history. He was a magnificent
fielder and played with intense enthusiasm.
"He was the
key man of the Cincinnati infield this year (1940)," Martin wrote,
adding, " ... the spark which always was there when a blaze was needed.
His work in the World
Series was sensational, and he at least deserves a place on the honor
roll of most valuable players."
traded Werber to the New York Giants after the 1941 season and he played
there for one year before retiring. He returned to his home in suburban
Washington, D.C., and began a successful career as an insurance
Werber retired again and went to
Naples, Florida, where he began writing a book entitled
books recently have downgraded baseball. I simply thought I would write
about the decent people in baseball," Werber said.
he might have been a bit arrogant at one time, Werber was one of those
decent people and will be remembered in Cincinnati not only as a
standout third baseman but as a first-class person as well.