Bill Werle had a decent run, winning 29 games over six big-league seasons from 1949 through 1954. His playing career spanned from 1943 to 1963, and he also managed in the minors during nine seasons before scouting for nearly three decades.
He was born on December 21, 1920 in Oakland, California and attended Stockton High. He played American Legion ball in Stockton, and also enjoyed basketball, handball, and ping pong.
Bill went on to Modesto Junior College and then attended the University of California at Berkeley in 1941-42 and 1942-43. His record on the mound for the California Bears was not imposing, but his hitting is still visible in the team’s record books. For 1942, his .474 batting average won him the Robert Crews cup as the best hitter for the Bears.
He began his professional baseball career with the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals in 1943 and had a record of 1-2 and a 4.85 ERA. The following year, he won 14 and lost 19, with an ERA of 4.05.
He worked over the winter in a war plant in Stockton, but in February 1945, he was inducted into the Unites States Army. As an infantryman, he didn’t have to serve long because World War II ended in a matter of months. He was out of the Army by December and was able to return to the Seals for 1946, ’47, and ’48. The Seals announced in September, 1948, that his contract had been sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates for three players and an unannounced sum of cash.
At age 28, Bill became a big-leaguer and made the Pittsburgh roster in spring training 1949. His debut came on April 22nd in relief. He was arguably the best rookie lefty in the National League in 1949, but he was pitching for the sixth-place Pirates. He finished 12-13 with a 4.24 ERA.
The Pirates progressively converted him into a reliever. In 1950, 22 of his 48 games were as a starter, mostly at the beginning and end of the season. In 1951, he appeared in 59 games, then a franchise record, starting in only nine of them and his ERA climbed to 5.65. After his first five relief appearances in 1952, he had neither a win nor a loss but an ERA of 9.00. It was no surprise to anyone when he was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals. In July, he was placed on the disabled list and missed the remainder of the season with a liver ailment.
In October, the Red Sox paid $10,000 to the Cardinals, selecting him off the waiver list. He reported for early spring training with the Red Sox in 1953 and pitched in five games in April and May, with a very good 1.54 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. Even so, the Sox needed to prune the roster and optioned him to Louisville in May.
In 1954, he was 0-1 for Boston (the same record he’d had in 1953). He relieved in 14 games over April, May, and June, pitching just 24 2/3 innings and posting a 4.38 ERA. Hi’s final major-league appearance came in June. Though he’d given up only two earned runs over his last six stints, when the Red Sox brought up Russ Kemmerer from Louisville, they sent Bill down. He spent the rest of the year in Louisville again. In October, the Cincinnati Redlegs bought his contract from Louisville.
He trained in the springtime with Cincinnati until April, when his contract was sold to the Portland Beavers. He felt aggrieved because he was let go when he was just 62 days short of eligibility for a pension.
He spent the next seven seasons pitching back in the Coast League and was a starter for most of that time. He was with Portland in 1955 and 1956. He split the 1957 season between Portland and San Diego, where he also worked in ’58, ’59, and the start of 1960. He joined Tacoma in 1960, and then during 1961, he went from Tacoma to a new franchise, the Hawaii Islanders. In addition to pitching for the Islanders, he served as the team’s pitching coach.
According to reports at the time, he was going to manage the Islanders in 1962, however, he wound up coming back as pitching coach instead.
In 1963, he started his minor-league managing career with Single-A Fresno in the San Francisco Giants’ system. He also made his final appearance on the mound that year, retiring the only batter he faced. He returned to Fresno as skipper again in 1964.
Bill then moved up to Triple A, leading Tacoma in 1965 and Phoenix in 1966 and ’67. In 1967, the Giants did him a favor, signing him to an active contract to give him the 19 days of service he needed to make five years and qualify for a pension.
In 1968, he managed low-A ball for Baltimore. He then put in two more years at Fresno for the Giants in 1969 and 1970. Beginning in 1971, he became a special assignment scout for the Orioles. He scouted for Baltimore all the way through 1989, mostly looking at pitchers in the majors and high minor leagues. In 1990, he was offered a two-year deal by the Cleveland Indians and worked for them through 1999.
Bill Werle lived nearly a decade after retiring from baseball. At age 89, he died of complications from Alzheimer’s in San Mateo on November 27, 2010. He’d been in a home for 2½ years before his passing.