If I could go back in time and watch one baseball game, it would be the seventh game of the 1926 World Series. Here is the story of the game and hopefully you too will build an appreciation for the greats of times gone by.
It was October 10th at Yankee Stadium in New York. The St. Louis Cardinals were playing against the New York Yankees. The Cardinals had tied the series 3-3 on a complete game 10-2 victory by the 39-year old Grover Cleveland Alexander the day before.
Alexander was one of the main stories of 1926 series. Game 2 had been his first opportunity to pitch in World Series since 1915. In 1915, Alexander played for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Grover Cleveland Alexander at age 39 playing for the St. Louis Cardinals
In the 1915 series, Alexander started Games 1 (won 3-1) and 3 (lost 2-1). With the Phillies down 3 games to 1 he was scheduled to start Game 5, but asked to be replaced because he didn’t “feel right”. Phillies lost game 5 and the series. Rumors started that Alexander had been drinking heavily the night before and was too hung over to pitch the crucial Game 5. Alexander, the best pitcher in the National League for the next decade, had to live with this for 11 years. In 1926 he finally had the chance to redeem himself. And redeem himself he did, in Game 2 and Game 6 of the 1926 World Series. With his chance he sent the Cardinals to a Game 7 against the Yankees.
The 1926 Yankees were in the first year of the famous Murderers Row.
Their number 3, 4, 5, and 6 hitters were Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Lou Gehrig, and Tony Lazzari. This was the year before they were to become “The 1927 Yankees”, considered by most as the Greatest Baseball Team Ever. The Yankees teams of these years are the thing of legend, and the 1926 World Series had them on the main stage.
Cardinals Pitcher Jessie Haines (Hall of Famer) started Game 7 against Waite Hoyt (Hall of Famer). The Cardinals carried a 3-2 lead into bottom of 7th inning when with two outs the Yankees loaded the bases against Haines, and Tony Lazzeri (Hall of Famer) came to the plate. Cardinal Manager, and second baseman, Rogers Hornsby (Hall of Famer) called for Grover Cleveland Alexander to relieve Haines, even though he had just pitched a complete Game 6 the day before. As Alexander walked in from the Bullpen he stumbled crossing the first base line, and everyone wondered if he had been drinking again. Concern magnified when Lazzari crushed the first pitch deep into the seats, but just foul. Alexander came back to strike Lazzeri out in dramatic fashion.
Alexander sent the Yankees down in order in the 8th inning, then retired the first two batters in the 9th. Who should come to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning of the seventh game of the World Series? None other than The Great Bambino himself, Babe Ruth. Ruth worked the count full, and on a 3 balls 2 strike pitch took it for ball four. Up comes Bob Meusel, Lou Gehrig is on deck, with Tony Lazzeri to follow. The tying run is on first and the winning run is at the plate and they are facing a 39-year old who just pitched a 9-inning game the day before and what does Ruth do…he tries to steal second! Cardinal Catcher Bob O’Farrell throws to second baseman Rogers Hornsby who tags out Babe Ruth to end the Series. Cardinal’s win 3-2.
Alexander would go on to pitch three more years for the Cardinals, and as things would work out face the Yankees again in the 1928 World Series. This time the Yankees would knock Alexander out in the third inning of his only start in the Yankees 4-game sweep. The Yankees would dominate going forward with their historic team, but in 1926 almost 40-year old Grover Cleveland Alexander and the St. Louis Cardinals were the World Champions.
Alexander’s life did not end well, he continued to drink and died lonely and broke in 1950. Just a few years later he would be portrayed by Ronald Reagan (yes, that Ronald Reagan) in the movie The Winning Team. He would still go down as one of the greatest pitchers of all time. The 1926 World Series was the first World Series win for the St. Louis Cardinals a team that has gone on to win 10 more. The Cardinals are still considered one of the premier teams in the Majors.
The Yankees and Babe Ruth went on to Baseball history, always at the top of the “Greatest Ever” lists. Ruth would rule the long ball, the RBI’s and the outfield defense.
He would be surrounded with the greatest team in history (check back later, we may argue that) and the Yankees would be the most dominating professional franchise in American History. In the 1926 World Series both of these forces and characters of baseball legend met. That is why that’s the game I would watch if I could watch any. I hope these names and stories will extend to the next generation of baseball and sports fans.
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