There’s an old adage (are there such things as new adages?) that left-handed pitchers are flaky. Make them relief pitchers and it’s supposed to increase ten-fold. In many cases it proves to be true. The 1984 Tigers had their zany southpaw in Bill Scherrer, a tall, gangly character who was so thin that he looked like if he turned sideways his teacher would have marked him absent.
Scherrer may have had an odd appearance, but there was nothing funny about him once he took the ball and climbed the mound. In his first season in 1983 with the Cincinnati Reds, the 6’4 lefty pitched in 73 games and posted a 2.74 ERA while saving 10. But when he struggled in 1984 with the Reds, Scherrer was dealt to the Tigers before the trade deadline in late August for next to nothing. Like so many other changes of scenery, it proved to be helpful. In Detroit, Scherrer was used as a situational lefty, facing LH batters and setting up Aurelio Lopez, who set up Willie Hernandez.
In 18 games for the ’84 team, Scherrer allowed just four earned runs and fashioned a nifty 1.89 ERA. He fit in well with his bullpen mates, including Doug Bair, a former teammate in Cincinnati. Even manager Sparky Anderson was familiar with Scherrer, having seen him as a young minor league prospect with the Reds in 1977 and 1978.
Bill pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in Game Two of the World Series in San Diego; surrendered a run in the Tigers victory in Game Three; and factored big in Game Five at Tiger Stadium. In that game, starter Dan Petry found himself in trouble in the fourth inning protecting a 3-1 lead. The Padres scored two runs to tie it and had a runner on second when Sparky called Scherrer in to face left-handed hitting Tony Gwynn. The slender reliever got the NL batting title winner to fly out, ending the threat. Scherrer got two outs in the fifth before leaving the game. The Tigers came back and won the game and the Series, 8-4.
That game was the pinnacle of Scherrer’s career, the ring he won on the ’84 team was the only time he ever got into the post-season. He pitched two more seasons for Detroit before going back to Cincinnati, then Baltimore and Philadelphia. He retired after the 1991 season having pitched in 228 games with an ERA just above four. The Tonawanda, New York, native hadn’t had his fill of baseball, however. He worked for seven seasons as an area scout in New York and Pennsylvania for the Florida Marlins. From 1999-2002, he worked as a crosschecker for the Reds. In that role he paid a visit to players who other scouts had tagged as potential prospects. Earning a reputation as a keen eye for talent, in 2003 the Chicago White Sox hired Scherrer to be a professional scout – looking at players in other organizations, and he now serves directly under ChiSox GM Ken Williams as a special assignment scout. This time of year, around the trade deadlines, Scherrer can often be sighted checking out players at the major league level for potential trades and acquisition.
Scherrer is a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and still resides in New York where he’s an avid hockey fan and sports enthusiast.