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Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander (February 26, 1887, Elba, Nebraska - November 4, 1950, St. Paul, Nebraska) was a Major League Baseball pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.
Alexander was one of thirteen children and played semipro ball in his youth. He signed his first professional contract at age 22 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 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. 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 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, 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 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 finest 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 scorless for two more innings to preserve the win and give St. Louis the championship. Alexander had one last 20-win season for the Cardianls in 1927, 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.
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 (5190), second in shutouts, and eighth in hits allowed (4868).
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