Pete Alexander

Grover Cleveland Alexander
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1938
Primary team: Philadelphia Phillies
Primary position: Pitcher

A rawboned right-handed hurler straight off a Nebraska farm, Grove Cleveland Alexander broke into the big leagues with a flourish in 1911 with the Philadelphia Phillies, setting a rookie record with 28 wins.

Using a wide variety of breaking pitches, deceptive speed and pinpoint control, Alexander soon found himself being compared to the top pitchers of his era. And why not? He averaged 27 wins per season during his seven years in Philadelphia, including one three-year span in which he won 31, 33 and 30.

“He made me want to throw my bat away when I went to the plate,” said Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers. “He fed me pitches I couldn’t hit. If I let them go, they were strikes. He made you hit bad balls. He could throw into a tin can all day long.”

A stint in the military during World War I preceded Alexander’s trade to the Chicago Cubs in 1918, where he soon established himself as the ace of the staff. There were some good years with the Cubs, including a 27-win campaign in 1920, but eventually the St. Louis Cardinals claimed him off waivers midway through the 1926 season, a most fortuitous transaction for a pennant contender.

Though he looked every bit of his 39 years of age, “Old Pete,” as he was nicknamed, had some life left in his arm. He won nine games down the stretch, helping the Cards get to the World Series against the famed New York Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. This grizzled veteran would soon find himself with one of the most famous strikeouts in baseball history.

After complete game victories in the second and sixth games, Alexander was called upon to close out the Series. St. Louis was ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, but starting pitcher Jesse Haines was in trouble, having loaded the bases with two outs. Called in from the bullpen only a day after his Game Six triumph, Alexander would face rookie second baseman Tony Lazzeri, who had knocked in 114 during the season. After nearly giving up a grand slam homer down the left field line that went foul at the last moment, Alexander would strike out Lazzeri and then toss two more hitless innings to lock down the title.

Ruth would write years later, “Just to see old Pete out there on the mound, with that cocky little undersize cap pulled down over one ear, chewing away at his tobacco and pitching baseballs as easy as pitching hay is enough to take the heart out of a fellow.”

Upon Alexander’s death in 1950, famed sportswriter Grantland Rice penned that the winner of 373 big league games was the most cunning, the smartest, and the best control pitcher that baseball had ever seen, adding, “Above everything else, Alex had one terrific feature to his pitching – he knew just what the batter didn’t want – and he put it there to the half-inch.”

"What's the use of doing in three pitches what you can do in one? "
Grover Cleveland Alexander

Career stats

ESSENTIAL STATS
Year Inducted: 1938
Primary Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Position Played: Pitcher
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Birth place: Elba, Nebraska
Birth year: 1887
Died: 1950, St. Paul, Nebraska
Played for:
Philadelphia Phillies (1911-1917)
Chicago Cubs (1918-1926)
St. Louis Cardinals (1926-1929)
Philadelphia Phillies (1930)
CAREER AT A GLANCE
GamesG
696
HitsH
4868
RunsR
1852
Innings PitchedIP
5190
WinsW
373
LossesL
208
Winning %Winning %
.642
Games StartedGS
696
ERAERA
2.56
Complete GamesCG
436
ShutoutsSHO
90
WHIPWHIP
1.121
SavesSV
32
Earned RunsER
1476
WalksBB
951
StrikeoutsSO
2198