Grover Cleveland Alexander
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 185 lb.
- High School St. Paul (NE) High School
- Debut April 15, 1911
- Final Game May 28, 1930
- Born February 26, 1887 in Elba, NE USA
- Died November 4, 1950 in St. Paul, NE USA
"I could throw harder than Grover, but he could put the ball through a knothole. He had perfect control." - George Pipgras, speaking about Grover Cleveland Alexander late in his career
Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander is one of the top pitchers of all time with 373 career major league victories. Only Cy Young and Walter Johnson have more. He was named after U.S. President Grover Cleveland and later portrayed in film by future President Ronald Reagan in the movie "The Winning Team".
Alexander was one of thirteen children and played semipro ball in his youth. He signed his first professional contract at age 20 in 1907 for $50 per month. He had a good first season, but it was marred by a beaning that probably contributed to later bouts with epilepsy. This incident set his career back, but he had recovered by 1910, became a star pitcher again, and was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies for $750.
Alexander set the league on fire in his 1911 debut, leading the circuit 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. The best, however, was yet to come. Alexander was the dominant pitcher in the National League from 1915 to 1917, becoming the only pitcher to win pitching's Triple Crown three years in a row, and from 1912 to 1920, Alexander led the league in ERA four times (1915, 1916, 1919, 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 six times (1913, 1915, 1916 [a single season record 16], 1917, 1919). In 1915, he was instrumental in leading the Phillies to their first pennant, and he also pitched a record four one-hitters.
After the 1917 season, the Phillies sold Alexander to the Chicago Cubs, fearful that he would be lost to the army in World War I. Sure enough, he was drafted, 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 and grabbed another pitching Triple Crown in 1920. Finally tiring of his increasing drunkenness and insubordination, the Cubs sold him to the St. Louis Cardinals in the middle of the 1926 season for the waiver price.
The Cardinals won the National League that year and met the New York Yankees in the World Series, where Alexander had his most memorable moment. He pitched complete game victories in Games 2 and 6 before coming into the seventh inning of Game 7, after Jesse Haines developed a blister, with the Cardinals up 3-2, the bases loaded and two outs. Facing Yankee slugger Tony Lazzeri, Alexander got him to strike out and then held the Yankees scoreless for two more innings to preserve the win and give St. Louis the championship. Alexander had one last 20-win season for the 1927 Cardinals, but his continued drinking finally did him in. He left baseball after a brief return to the Phillies in 1930 and pitched for the House of David until 1938.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 18, 1938 by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He was the only candidate elected by the BBWAA that year. The later years of his life were very unhappy as he sank deeper into alcoholism and poverty. He died in November 1950, shortly after attending the 1950 World Series, the first time the Phillies had reached the Fall Classic since he led them from the mound in 1915. In 1952, a version of his life story was the basis for the movie The Winning Team, starring Ronald Reagan as Alexander and Doris Day as his wife Aimee.
Alexander's 373 wins and 90 shutouts are both National League records, and he is also third all time in wins, tenth in innings pitched (5,190), second in shutouts, and eighth in hits allowed (4,868). 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. His first baseball card appearance was in the 1914 Crackerjack set.
- 4-time NL Pitcher's Triple Crown (1915-1917 & 1920)
- 4-time NL ERA Leader (1915, 1916, 1919 & 1920)
- 6-time NL Wins Leader (1911, 1914-1917 & 1920)
- NL Winning Percentage Leader (1915)
- 7-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (1911, 1912, 1914-1917 & 1920)
- 6-time NL Strikeouts Leader (1912, 1914-1917 & 1920)
- 6-time NL Complete Games Leader (1911, 1914-1917 & 1920)
- 7-time NL Shutouts Leader (1911, 1913, 1915-1917, 1919 & 1921)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 15 (1911-1917, 1919-1923, 1925, 1927 & 1928)
- 20 Wins Seasons: 9 (1911, 1913-1917, 1920, 1923 & 1927)
- 25 Wins Seasons: 6 (1911, 1914-1917 & 1920)
- 30 Wins Seasons: 3 (1915-1917)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 16 (1911-1917, 1919-1923 & 1925-1928)
- 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 9 (1911-1917, 1920 & 1923)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 4 (1911, 1914, 1915 & 1917)
- Won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1926
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1938
- Shutouts, season, 16, 1916
- Shutouts, right-hander, season, 16, 1916
- Most wins against one team, career, 70 (against Cincinnati)
- Rob Edelman: "The Winning Team: Fact and Fiction in Celluloid Biographies", in The National Pastime, SABR, Number 26 (May, 2006), pp. 72-76.
- Jim Leeke: The Best Team Over There: The Untold Story of Grover Cleveland Alexander and the Great War, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2021. ISBN 978-1496217165
- John C. Skipper: Wicked Curve: The Life and Troubled Times of Grover Cleveland Alexander, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7864-2412-2
- Warren N. Wilbert: What Makes an Elite Pitcher? Young, Mathewson, Johnson, Alexander, Grove, Spahn, Seaver, Clemens, and Maddux, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7864-1456-7