He was the key man of the Cincinnati infield this year (1940) ... the spark which always was there when a blaze was needed.
- Sportswriter Whitney Martin
In 1938, the year before Bill Werber's arrival in Cincinnati, then-Reds coach Edd Roush determined that the only piece needed to make the Reds a championship ball club was a dependable third baseman. Reds management heeded Roush's advice and purchased Weber's contract from the Philadelphia Athletics in March of 1939. Werber was immediately installed as the club's starting third baseman and leadoff hitter and proceeded to lead the Reds to back-to-back pennants and the 1940 World Championship.
A fine all-around athlete, Werber was the first All-America basketball player at Duke University before signing a professional baseball contract with the Yankees. Before he graduated, Werber was permitted to travel with the Yankees during their legendary 1927 season. Throughout his life he told numerous stories of his experiences with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey and the rest of the players that comprised the great Yankee teams of the period. Werber made his Major League debut with New York in 1930 and became a regular player for the team in 1933 before being traded to the Red Sox late in the season. Werber enjoyed some of his finest seasons in a Boston uniform including back-to-back stolen bases titles in 1934 and 1935. Traded to Philadelphia in 1937, Werber again lead the league in steals. He was one of the quickest players of his era, finishing in the top ten in his league in stolen bases nine times during his 11-year career.
With the Reds in 1939, Werber hit .289 with a .388 OBP and a league-best 115 runs scored. On August 26, he earned the distinction of becoming the first Major League player to bat in a televised game when he lead-off for the Reds against the Dodgers in Brooklyn, a game that was broadcast by station W2XBS, the forerunner of NBC.
The Reds fell to the Yankees in the 1939 World Series but defended their National League pennant with authority in 1940, posting a then-franchise record for wins with 100 and besting their closest competition, the Dodgers, by 12 games. In the 1940 World Series, Werber led all batters with a .370 average as the Reds beat the Tigers in seven games. About that 1940 title Werber said, "The greatest thrill I had out of baseball was winning the World Series for Cincinnati. The people of Cincinnati so supported that ballclub that you just wanted to do something for them."
Possessed with tremendous business acumen, Werber went to work for his family's insurance business following his retirement from baseball in 1942. Already a successful enterprise, Werber made it more so and was a millionaire when he retired in the 1970s. A man of varied interests, Werber wrote and published a book on bird hunting (Hunting Is For The Birds) in addition to two books that contained reflections on his baseball career (Circling The Bases and Memories of a Ballplayer: Bill Werber and Baseball in the 1930s).
Bill Werber passed away on January 22, 2009 at the age of 100. At the time of his death, Werber was the oldest living former Major League player.