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


Alexander was born in Elba, Nebraskamarker. Alexander was one of thirteen children and played semi-pro ball in his youth, signing his first professional contract at age 20 in 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. This incident set his career back, but he had recovered by , 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.

In his 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. From to , 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). He won pitching's Triple Crown in 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1920. In 1915, he was instrumental in leading the Phillies to their first pennant, 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, and spent most of the 1918 season in Francemarker 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 season for the waiver price.

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. 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 Stadiummarker where he saw the Phillies lose to the Yankees. He died less than a month later on on November 4, 1950 in St. Paul, Nebraskamarker at the age of 63.


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.


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 of the United States.

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:

See also


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