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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:
I can see him yet, walking in from the leftfield bullpen through the gray mist. The Yankee fans recognized him right off, and you didn't hear a sound from anywhere in Yankee Stadium as they sat still and watched him. And he took his time. Grover Cleveland Alexander was never in a hurry, and especially not this day. It was the seventh inning of the seventh game of the World Series and we were leading 3-2. Alec had won two games for us already and he was coming in now to face a tough young hitter with two out and the bases loaded.
I can still see him walking that long distance. He just came straggling along, a lean old Nebraskan, his face wrinkled, wearing a Cardinal sweater, his cap sitting on the top of his head and tilted to one side—that's the way he wore it. We were all standing on the mound waiting for him—me and Rogers Hornsby (who was our manager and second baseman) and Tommy Thevenow and Jim Bottomley and Bob O'Farrell. When Alec reached the mound Rog handed him the ball and said, "There's two out and they're drunk [meaning the bases were loaded] and Lazzeri's the hitter."
"O.K.," Alec said. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to throw the first one to him fast."
"No, no," Rog said. "You can't throw him a fastball."
Alec said patiently, "Yes I can. If he swings at it he'll most likely hit it on the handle, or if he hits it good it'll go foul. Then I'm going to come outside with my breaking pitch."
Rog looked him over for a moment, gave a slow smile and said, "Who am I to tell you how to pitch?"
To show you what kind of pitcher Alec was and the kind of thinking he did, he said, "I've got to get Lazzeri out now. Then in the eighth I've got to get Dugan, I've got to get Collins and I've got to get Pennock or whoever hits for him—one, two, three. In the ninth I've got to get Combs and I've got to get Koenig, one, two, so when the big son of a bitch comes up there [meaning Babe Ruth, of course] the best he can do is tie the ball game." He had it figured out that Ruth was going to be the last hitter in the ninth inning.
So we all went back to our positions and Alec got set to work. He had gone nine the day before, and if he got out of this jam he still had two more innings to go. He was nearly 40 years old—but, doggone, there wasn't another man in the world I would have rather seen out there at that moment than Grover Cleveland Alexander.
After Alec had pitched the sixth game, Hornsby said to him and Bill Sherdel, another of our pitchers, "Alec, you're in the bullpen tomorrow and, Sherry, so are you."