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Grover Cleveland Alexander

Pitcher
Born: February 26, 1887(1887-02-26)
Elba, Nebraska,
United States
Died: November 4, 1950 (aged 63)
St. Paul, Nebraska,
United States
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
April 15, 1911 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Last MLB appearance
May 28, 1930 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Career statistics
Win-Loss record     373–208
Earned run average     2.56
Strikeouts     2198
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Notable Achievements
  • 373 career wins (3rd all-time)
  • 2.56 career era (48th all-time)
  • 1.121 career whip (32nd all time)
  • Won 20 games or more 9 times, won 30 games or more 3 times.
  • Pitched 90 shutouts (2nd all time)
  • Won NL Pitcher's Triple Crown in 1915, 1916,1917 and 1920
  • World Series champion (1926)
  • National League pennants (1915), (1918)
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction     1938
Vote     80.92%

Grover Cleveland "Old Pete" Alexander (February 26, 1887 – November 4, 1950) was a Major League Baseball pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals. He was elected in 1938 to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Contents

Career

Alexander was born in Elba, Nebraska.[1] Alexander was one of thirteen children and played semi-pro ball in his youth, signing his first professional contract at age 20 in 1907 for $50 per month. He had a good first season, but his career was almost ended when he was struck by a thrown ball while baserunning.[1] This incident set his career back, but he had recovered by 1910, become a star pitcher again, and was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies for $750.

Alexander made his Philadelphia debut during the pre-season 1911 City Series. Alexander pitched five-innings of no-hit, no-run baseball against the Athletics. He would make his official Major League debut on April 15, 1911.[2]

In his 1911 debut, Alexander led the league with 28 wins (a modern-day rookie record), 31 complete games, 367 innings pitched, and seven shutouts, while finishing second in strikeouts and fourth in ERA.[1] From 1912 to 1920, Alexander led the league in ERA five times (1915, 1916, 1917, 1919, and 1920), wins five times (1914–17, 1920), innings six times (1912, 1914–17, 1920), strikeouts six times (1912, 1914–1917, 1920), complete games five times (1914–1917, 1920), and shutouts five times (1915, 1916 [a single season record 16], 1917, 1919).[1] He won pitching's Triple Crown in 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1920.[1] In 1915, he was instrumental in leading the Phillies to their first pennant,[1] and he also pitched a record four one-hitters.

Alexander, with the Phillies circa 1911.

After the 1917 season, the Phillies sold Alexander to the Cubs, ostensibly fearful that he would be lost to the army in World War I, but as Phillies owner William Baker admitted later, "I needed the money". Sure enough Alexander was drafted,[citation needed] and spent most of the 1918 season in France as an artillery officer, where he suffered from shell shock, partial hearing loss, and increasingly worse seizures. Always a drinker, Alexander hit the bottle particularly hard after the war. He still gave Chicago several successful years, however, and grabbed another pitching triple crown in 1920. Finally tiring of his increasing drunkenness and insubordination, the Cubs sold him to the Cardinals in the middle of the 1926 season for the waiver price.[1]

The Cardinals won the National League pennant that year and met the New York Yankees in the World Series, where Alexander had his finest moment. He pitched complete game victories in Games 2 and 6. According to teammate Bob O'Farrell in The Glory of Their Times, after the game six victory, Alexander managed to get drunk throughout the night and was still feeling the effects when he was sent out to pitch.[3] Alexander came to the game in the seventh inning of Game 7, after starter Jesse Haines developed a blister, with the Cardinals ahead 3–2, the bases loaded and two outs. Facing Yankee slugger Tony Lazzeri, Alexander struck him out and then held the Yankees scoreless for two more innings to preserve the win and give St. Louis the championship. He had one last 20-win season for the Cardinals in 1927, but his continued drinking finally did him in. He left major league baseball after a brief return to the Phillies in 1930, and pitched for the House of David until 1938.

Alexander attended game three of the 1950 World Series at Yankee Stadium where he saw the Phillies lose to the Yankees.[4] He died less than a month later on on November 4, 1950 in St. Paul, Nebraska at the age of 63.[5]

Milestones

Alexander's 90 shutouts are a National League record and his 373 wins are tied with Christy Mathewson for first in the National League record book. He is also third all time in wins, tenth in innings pitched (5190), second in shutouts, and eighth in hits allowed (4868).

In 1915, he won his first World Series game, for the Philadelphia Phillies. It would be 62 years before the Phillies won another postseason game, a major league record.

In 1999, he ranked number 12 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Names / nicknames

Alexander was born during the first term of U.S. President Grover Cleveland.

Newspapers often mentioned his full name when writing about him, in addition to just "Grover". He was also sometimes called "Alec", and on occasions when he succeeded in grand fashion (as with the 1926 World Series), they would call him "Alexander the Great".

The origin of the nickname "Old Pete" is something of a mystery. It is uncertain how frequently Alexander was publicly called by that nickname during his playing days. On his 1940 Playball baseball card he was referred to as "Ol' Pete." In The World Series and Highlights of Baseball, by Lamont Buchanan, published in 1951, the year after Alexander died, on pp. 106–107 the author refers to "Pete Alexander" and "Ol' Pete" in a matter-of-fact way, suggesting the nickname was well-known. When he won his 373rd game on August 10, 1929, one newspaper had called him "old Pete", indicating that the nickname was in public circulation. (The Scrapbook History of Baseball, by Deutsch, Cohen, Johnson and Neft, Bobbs-Merrill, 1975, p. 131).

His nickname among old family friends in Nebraska was "Dode." (see "Grover Alexander and Bride Visit Home Folks," St. Paul Phonograph, St. Paul, Neb., April 24, 1919)

The Phillies retired the 1915 block-letter P to honor Alexander in 2001.

Legacy

Alexander was the subject of the 1952 biographical film The Winning Team, in which he was played by Ronald Reagan. Baseball commentator Bill James called the film "an awful movie, a Reader's Digest movie, reducing the events of Alexander's life to a cliché." Nevertheless, Alexander has the distinction of being the namesake of one President of the United States and having been portrayed on film by an actor who later became President.

The block-letter "P" from the 1915 season uniforms was retired by the Phillies in 2001 to honor Alexander's Phillies career.

Alexander is the first player mentioned in the poem Line-up for Yesterday by Ogden Nash:

Lineup for Yesterday

A is for Alex
The great Alexander;
More Goose eggs he pitched
Than a popular gander.

Ogden Nash, Sport magazine (January 1949)[6]

See also

References

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Christy Mathewson
Tom Seaton
Jesse Barnes
National League Wins Champion
1911
1914–1917
1920
Succeeded by
L. Cheney & R. Marquard
Hippo Vaughn
W. Cooper & B. Grimes
Preceded by
Rube Marquard
Tom Seaton
Hippo Vaughn
National League Strikeout Champion
1912
1914–1917
1920
Succeeded by
Tom Seaton
Hippo Vaughn
Burleigh Grimes
Preceded by
Christy Mathewson
Hippo Vaughn
National League Pitching Triple Crown
1915 & 1916
1920
Succeeded by
Hippo Vaughn
Dazzy Vance
Preceded by
Bill Doak
Hippo Vaughn
National League ERA Champion
1915–1916
1919–1920
Succeeded by
Fred Anderson
Bill Doak
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