SI Vault
Donald Honig
October 09, 1978
One of the most frequently reported moments in World Series play occurred in 1926 when the aging Grover Cleveland Alexander came out of the St. Louis Cardinal bullpen to strike out New York Yankee rookie Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded to save both the game and the Series for the Cardinals. Of the many stories that have been written about the incident, most tend to confirm the legend that the hard-drinking Alexander, who had beaten the Yanks the day before, was suffering from a post-celebration hangover. But listen to the account of an eyewitness, Les Bell, now 76 but then the Cardinals' 24-year-old third baseman:
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October 09, 1978

Despite The Legend, Only The Bases Were Loaded In The 1926 Series When "pete" Alexander Ambled To The Pitcher's Mound

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Sherdel just nodded, but Alec said, "All right, Rog. But I'll tell you, I'm not going to warm up in the bullpen. I've got just so many throws left in this arm. I'll take my warmup pitches on the mound."

And that's the way it was left. So when you hear those stories about how Alec didn't think he might have to pitch the next day and was out all night celebrating and how he was hung over when he came in, that's a lot of bunk. I saw him around the hotel the night before, for goodness sakes. I don't say he didn't have a drink, but he was around most of the night.

Jess Haines started the seventh game for us and he pitched just fine until the seventh inning. Haines was a knuckleball pitcher; he threw the knuckler hard and he threw it just about all the time. His fingers had blistered from all the wear and tear, so when Lazzeri—who had batted in 114 runs that season—came up, he called a halt. Rog and the rest of us walked over to the mound.

"Can you throw it anymore?" Rog asked him.

"No," Jess said. "I can throw the fastball but not the knuckler."

"Well," Hornsby said, "we don't want any fastballs to Lazzeri."

We had been throwing Lazzeri nothing but breaking balls away and we'd been having pretty good luck with him.

So Rog said, "O.K., I'm going to bring in Pete," which is what we sometimes called Alexander.

So in came Alec, shuffling through the gloom from out in leftfield. He took his time at everything, except when he pitched. Then he worked like a machine. That arm going up and down, up and down. If you didn't swing at the first pitch it was strike one, you didn't swing at the second pitch it was strike two. His control was amazing, just amazing.

He took four warmup pitches on the mound—that's all—and he was ready. Alec was a little bit of the country boy psychologist out there. I guess a lot of the great pitchers are. He knew it was Lazzeri's rookie year, and that here it was, seventh game of the World Series, two out and the bases loaded and the score 3-2. The pressure was something. Lazzeri had to be anxious up there. This is not to take anything from Lazzeri—he was a great hitter—but he was up against the master. And don't think when Alec walked in he didn't walk slower than ever. He wanted Lazzeri to wait as long as possible, standing at the plate thinking about the situation. And he just knew Tony's eyes would pop when he saw his fastball.

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