Saturday, February 26, 2005
February 26th, 1887
Grover Cleveland Alexander Born
Of the truly great pitchers, Young, Alexander, Mathewson, Johnson, Spahn, Seaver, Clemens, etc. probably none faced more obstacles than Grover Cleveland Alexander. In addition to being named after a mediocre and forgettable President, Alexander was an alcoholic, suffered from epilepsy and was rendered partially deaf while serving with the artillery in World War I. Despite all this, Alexander won three hundred seventy-three career games (tied for third all-time and a fairly secure record) and in 1916 he threw sixteen shutouts, a record that still stands.
Alexander is perhaps best remembered for his strikeout of Tony Lazzeri in the seventh game of the 1926 World Series. With the Cardinals leading the Yankees 3-2, the Yankees loaded the bases against the Cards' Jesse Haines. Despite having pitched a complete game the day before Alexander was summoned out of the bullpen by manager Rogers Hornsby. Alexander proceeded to strike out Lazzeri and would go on to pitch the next two innings for the save.
The strikeout is what gets most attention from Alexander's appearance in that game, but the last out is of greater interest to me. It is slightly famous in its own right; after drawing a walk with two outs (and with Bob Meusel, Lou Gehrig and Lazzeri scheduled to hit) Babe Ruth took off for second base and was thrown out, the only World Series to end on a failed stolen base attempt. It is also noteworthy for being the greatest collection of talent involved in a "last play" in World Series history. In addition to Alexander (an all-time great pitcher) and Ruth (the greatest player to ever live), the catcher who made the throw down to nail Ruth was the National League MVP for that season, Bob O'Farrell and the tag was put on Ruth by Rogers Hornsby, one of the game's all-time great hitters.