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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There are so many legends associated with that strikeout. They say that Hornsby walked out to leftfield to meet Alec, to look in his eyes and make sure they were clear. And so on. All a lot of bunk. It's too bad they say these things. If you stop to think about it, no man could have done what Alec did if he was drunk or even a little soggy. Not the way he pitched that day, and not the way his mind was working. Everybody knows that he was a drinker and that he had a problem with it, but he was not drunk when he walked into the ball game that day. No way.

So he got to work. The first pitch he threw to Lazzeri was low, a ball. The second crossed the plate for a called strike. Lazzeri then jumped on the third pitch, a fastball high inside, and hit the hell out of it, a hard drive down the leftfield line. For 50 years that ball has been just curving foul, missing being a homer anywhere from an inch to 20 feet, depending on who you're listening to or what you're reading. But I was standing on third base and I'll tell you—that ball was foul all the way.

Then you should have seen Lazzeri go after a breaking ball on the low outside corner of the plate. He couldn't have hit it with a 10-foot pole.

He had struck out, and Alec shuffled off the mound toward the dugout. I ran by him and said something like, "Nice going, Alec." He looked at me with just the shadow of a smile on his lips. Then he took off his glove and flipped it onto the bench, put on his Cardinal sweater and sat down.

A lot of people think the Lazzeri strikeout ended the game. You'd be surprised how many I've spoken to through the years think it was the ninth inning. But, heck, we still had two innings to go.

Alec handled them like babies in the eighth—one, two, three. In the ninth he got the first two men—I threw them out from third base—and then Ruth stepped in, with two out and nobody on, just as Alec had wanted it. It would be nice to say that Alec struck him out to end it, and he nearly did. He took Babe to a full count and lost him on a low outside pitch that wasn't off by more than an eyelash.

Ruth got to first and then, for some reason that I've never been able to figure out, he tried to steal second. Bob O'Farrell gunned the ball down to Hornsby, Rog slapped the tag on Ruth and that was it.

We all froze for a second, then rushed at Alec. We surrounded him, the whole team, and pounded him around pretty good. He kept nodding his head and smiling and saying very softly, "Thanks, boys, thanks."

So many other things have come and gone now. It's a long time ago, isn't it? More than 50 years. But whenever I think of Alec walking in from leftfield, it seems like yesterday.

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