1927 Yankees bench player Julie Wera was born in Winona, MN on February 9, 1902.
Wera joined Winona’s top amateur baseball team, the Peerless Chains, sponsored by the Peerless Tire Chain Company, in July 1921, when he was just 16 years old. The 5-foot-7, 155-pound speedster was recruited to play semi-pro ball in Wausau, WI in 1924, where he caught the attention of the St. Paul Saints. On December 21, 1926, the Saints traded Wera to the New York Yankees for $40,000 and two players to be named later (per Baseball Reference).
Wera was the only rookie to make the Yankees out of camp in 1927. The 25-year-old made his major league debut on April 14, 1927, pinch-hitting for Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt versus Hall of Famer Lefty Grove. He grounded out.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of Wera’s career came on the Fourth of July in an auspicious doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. A crowd of 74,000—the largest crowd ever to attend a baseball game to that point—saw the Yanks demolish the second-place Senators, winning the first game 12-1 and the second 21-1. Wera replaced Joe Dugan at third base in the seventh inning of Game 2, and in the bottom of the inning he clouted a two-run homer off Nats lefty Bobby Burke, a rookie like Wera. It would be the only homer of Wera’s major league career.
The ‘27 Yankees are regarded by many as the greatest baseball team ever assembled. 32-year-old Babe Ruth swatted 60 home runs, while the team went 110-44 (.714), winning the American League pennant by a margin of 19 games. Wera, for his part, got into 38 games (19 starts), going 10-for-42 (.238) with a walk, eight RBI, and seven runs scored.
He suffered a gnarly knee injury in a late-season play at home, and was not a part of the World Series, in which the Yankees swept the Pirates. He did, however, receive the same $5,782 portion of the winners’ purse as Ruth, Gehrig, and the rest of the gang. Nice bonus, considering that Wera’s 1927 salary was $2,400.
Hampered by the knee injury, Wera was back in the minors with St. Paul in 1928. He did make it back to the Yankees for five games in 1929, going 5-for-12 (.417).
In total, Wera played 13 seasons of professional baseball, wrapping up his career in 1937 with the Crookston (MN) Pirates, a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate in the class-D Northern League.
Julie Wera died of a heart attack at his home in Rochester, MN on December 12, 1975. He was 73 years old.
Jerome Christenson wrote a great, succinct profile of Wera for the Winona Daily News on October 13, 2016 (click here).
For a more thorough picture—including a great anecdote about Lou Gehrig coming to see Wera at work at the Rochester Piggly Wiggly—read J.G. Preston’s SABR BioProject essay (click here).