Neill “Wild Horse” Sheridan always enjoyed sports, playing a variety as a youth. He grew up believing the football was his best sport, and played collegiately at the University of San Francisco, but his future turned out to be baseball. He was just good enough to get a cup of coffee in the major leagues, registering only one big league at bat. Even so, it was the crowning moment of his 12 year career in professional baseball.
Like many young men in the 1940’s, Sheridan faced military service, but his asthma prevented his enlistment, and he went to work instead in a shipyard. While working in the shipyard, he also played for a baseball team and was signed by a representative of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, who liked what he saw from the young player.
Sheridan appeared in his first professional game in 1943, the only contest he appeared in that year, but it was a springboard for the right-handed outfielder. He did not hit for much power, but always put up a good batting average and had an excellent arm in the outfield. His best season came in 1948, with the Seattle Rainiers, when he hit .312 with 17 home runs, 82 RBI, and 91 runs scored; a performance good enough to earn him a promotion to the Boston Red Sox for the final weeks of the season.
Boston only played Sheridan in two games during his major league stay. He pinch ran once for Bobby Doerr, and on September 26th, he pinch hit for pitcher Boo Ferris, striking out against the Yankees’ Tommy Byrne. Sheridan’s attempt to crack the Boston roster was impeded by the presence of stars like Dom Dimaggio and Ted Williams. With such firepower, young outfielders faced quite an uphill challenge to be noticed, and Sheridan failed to impress in his brief stay.
Although Sheridan continued playing professionally for six more seasons, he never made it back to the majors. He hit .283 in 1,446 career minor league games, with 118 home runs and 662 RBI. More information about his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=sherid001nei.
Now 90-years old, Sheridan down plays the significance of his time in the majors, but still has fond memories of his baseball career, some of which he recently shared.
Neill Sheridan Interview:
How did you first become get into professional baseball?: I was really lucky. When the Second World War broke out, I enlisted in the Marine Corps, and before I was sent to boot camp, I had an asthma attack. The Marines said that they didn’t want me. I went down to the draft board and they wouldn’t take me either because of the asthma.
So I went to work at a shipyard, and when I was there, I met a fellow who was a friend of Lefty O’Doul, who was the manager of the San Francisco Seals at the time. He asked me, this fellow that I met, if I would like to try out. I said, ‘Sure, why not.’ I had gone to the University of San Francisco and played football, and I was a good athlete. I went over and signed up, it worked out, and they signed me up, so that is how I started to play.
You knew New York Yankee player Myril Hoag when you were growing up. How did you come to know him, and did he have any influence on your baseball career?: He was a friend of my aunt and uncle. When he came home from the Yankees; I guess it was around 1935, or maybe later than that; I don’t remember the year, he brought me a ball. It was signed by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and all of the Yankees. It made quite an impression on me. Of course I always liked Babe Ruth; he was my idol when I was a kid. But outside of that, that was the only thing I knew about Myril Hoag.
What was your experience like when you were with the Red Sox?: Actually, it was more of an experience during spring training. I was playing with DiMaggio and Williams. It was quite a thrill. Of course we played against the Yankees and the Cardinals and a lot of the people who made the All-World team, you might say. It was quite an experience just being involved with these other players.
How long were you with the Red Sox?: I was with them the first month of the season and the last month of the season in 1948.
What was Red Sox skipper Joe McCarthy like as a manager?: Well, I hardly knew him. I said hello and goodbye. That was about the extent of it.
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: I am sure it was Lefty O’Doul. He was a great guy to play for, and he always tried to be supportive of you and tried to teach you. Of course I was pretty much a raw rookie, and he probably taught me everything that I came to know about baseball from him.
Do you have a favorite moment from your playing career?: One night when I was playing for Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League, I hit two home runs, and I raced a horse in between innings. It was the seventh inning, and I beat the horse in a race. That’s about the only thing I really remember. Of course we won two or three pennants when I was playing, and that was also a thrill.
If you could do anything differently about your baseball career, what would that be?: I’m sure if I had started earlier, and the war hadn’t been on, I might have gone a little bit further in baseball. Actually, between baseball seasons in 1943, I coached in football at Lincoln High School in San Francisco. I really enjoyed that and think that if I were to start all over again, that is one of the things I would rather do than anything, would be to coach kids.
What have you been up to since you stopped playing baseball?: I worked in the retail grocery business.
You can follow me on Facebook by going to http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Baseball-Historian/138174109591660 or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew