News, Notes and Historical Information on the St. Louis Cardinals
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Born 119 years ago today by the name of Grover Cleveland Alexander, Pete Alexander is one of the very best pitchers of all time. While you can argue about Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux’s eventually ascencion up the list, Alexander is listed as the third best pitcher of all time in Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.
Alexander began his career in 1911, several years before the Cardinal’s first World Series in 1926. He made his debut for the Philadelphia Phillies on April 15th of that year, and he proceeded to have one of the best seasons a rookie pitchers has ever had. He won 28 games and his ERA of 2.57 was good for an ERA+ of 133. He was second in the league in strikeouts with 227 and he finished third in the National League MVP vote.
Four years later, in 1915, Alexander had one of the finest seasons a pitcher’s ever had. He won thirty games for the first time in his career (finishing with 31 and beginning a streak of three straight seasons over 30 wins). He led the league in ERA with 1.22, which was good for a phenomonal 225 ERA+.
In 1918 he was traded to the Cubs but Alexander missed most of the season to fight for the United States in World War I. While in Europe, he began showing signs of epilipsy, and to cover it up he began drinking. By the time he returned home, Alexander was an alcoholic and while he was a very effective pitcher, most of his best seasons were behind him. He continued his time with the Cubs, but by 1924, he was slowly beginning to regress. On June 24, 1926, the Cubs finally got fed up with Alexander and his drinking and they shipped him off to St. Louis for the price of a waiver player.
Alexander finished the season for the Cardinals with 16 starts, 11 of which he finished. He was a modest 9-7 with an ERA of 2.91 and a WHIP of 1.079. While those numbers by itself aren’t all that impressive, his performance in the World Series is the reason he’s being highlighted with this essay. After the Cardinals dropped game one to the Yankees, Alexander pitched a complete game four hitter in which he gave up two runs (one earned) and struck out ten. His second start of the series was in a must win game six. Down three games to two, Alexander improved to 2-0 in the series with his second complete game. He gave up two runs on eight hits although he did benefit from ten runs by the Cards offense. Then in gave seven, Alexander threw 2 1/3 innings of no hit ball to close out a one run game to win the World Series.
Alexander followed up his post season heroics with a 21 win season in 1927. His last full season was 1928 and in 1930, he was traded back to the Phillies where he finished his career the same place that he started.
Here are Pete Alexander’s numbers for the Cardinals in 1926:
Games Started 16
Complete Games 11
Innings Pitched 148
Earned Runs 48
Runs Saved Above Average 17
Neutral Wins 10
Neutral Losses 6
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