“Old Pete:” How Grover Cleveland Alexander Got His Nickname
The harrowing battle duty of the war in Europe left Alexander with what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder. He left the front deaf in one ear, scarred by shrapnel in the other, and his pitching arm was wounded by repeatedly firing heavy artillery. Most importantly, he developed an increasing frequency of epileptic seizures and a growing dependence on alcohol. Despite his problems, after a brief period of recovery, Alexander returned to the game.
Alexander seemed to regain his form in 1920, authoring a 27-14 record, but he was no longer the dominant pitcher he had been. Damaged, aging, surviving on experience and will, Alexander now fit the name “Old Pete” perfectly.
His success in 1926 kept Alexander in the game, and in 1927 at the age of 40, “Old Pete” responded with a fine season. He pitched well again in 1928, but by 1930 his 20-year major league career was over. He amassed 373 wins, thought at the time to be one more than the great Christy Mathewson and the National League record. Alexander was quite proud of that accomplishment, but in the 1940s, a researcher discovered an additional Mathewson win, robbing Alexander of the singular honor.