Grover Cleveland Alexander Biography
Summary of the life and baseball career of Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Grover Cleveland Alexander was born on February 26, 1887 in St. Paul, Nebraska. He was one of thirteen children. Cleveland had 11 brothers and 1 sister. By age 19, he began playing organized baseball. He began as an outfielder and in 1907 began pitching for an amateur team in Elba, Nebraska.
In 1909, while playing in the Illinois-Missouri League, Alexander was hit in the head by a thrown ball and knocked unconscious for more than two days. When he came to, he suffered double vision that persisted through that season and winter. During the 1910 season, after his vision cleared, Alexander pitched 29 winning games and struck out 204 batters. At that time he was playing for Syracuse with the New York State League but the next season his contract was bought by the Philadelphia Phillies. He had a remarkable rookie year in the major league pitching 31 complete games, winning 28 games, and gaining 7 shutouts.
Alexander completed one of his finest seasons in 1916 by setting a modern major league record of 16 shutouts. He also led the league in total victories with 33. Alexander and Christy Mathewson were the only two pitchers in the 20th century to win 30 or more games for three seasons in a row. Alexander won 31 games in 1915, 33 games in 1916, and 30 games in 1917.
The Phillies traded Alexander to the Chicago Cubs at the end of the 1917 season for an unheard of $60,000 and two players. Cleveland only pitched 3 games for the Cubs in 1918 before serving one year with the military in World War I. As an artillery sergeant in the line of battle, Alexander became partially deaf from the numerous blasts. He also began to develop epileptic seizures around 1919.
Alexander returned to the Cubs in 1919 and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in June of 1926. At age 39, Alexander's effectiveness as a pitcher was fading. The Cardinals did, however, manage to win their first pennant in 38 years and challenge the New York Yankees for the 1926 World Series Championship. One of the most unforgettable moments in baseball came in the seventh game of that series. Alexander struck out Tony Lazzeri of the New York Yankees with the bases loaded after Babe Ruth was picked off trying to steal second base after getting to first base on a walk from Alexander. That enabled the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 1926 World Series Championship. In 1927, Alexander won more than 20 games but was obviously past his prime at age 40.
He retired from playing major league baseball in 1930 but barnstormed with the House of David, a baseball exhibition team for four years during the early 1930s. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938. During his major league career Alexander amassed 373 wins, 90 shutouts and had an earned run average of 2.56.
Cleveland returned to his hometown of St. Paul, Nebraska in 1950 and later died there on November 4, 1950. He is buried at Elwood in St. Paul, Nebraska.