They say the first is always the most special. So it was on October 10, 1926 when the St. Louis Cardinals ended multiple decades of frustration by winning their first of 11 World Championships.
The World Series Game 7 hero was an unlikely choice – not because he wasn’t a star, but because he had pitched a complete game the day before and was 39 years old. Further, folklore has it that Grover Cleveland Alexander, assuming he was done for the Series, celebrated late into the New York night following his Game 6 win.
Instead, he was called upon to protect a narrow 3-2 lead in the seventh with the bases full of New York Yankees. Alexander fanned another future Hall of Famer – Tony Lazzeri – to escape the jam, but just before, Lazzeri had narrowly missed a grand slam on a long foul ball. “Pete” went on to retire the Yanks in the eighth before walking Babe Ruth with two out in the ninth.
The Series ended most famously when catcher Bob O’Farrell’s throw to second baseman Rogers Hornsby nailed the Bambino trying to swipe second base. It remains the only time in MLB history that the World Series ended on a caught stealing – a record Yadier Molina would no doubt relish the chance to equal from behind the plate.
Alexander earned the save on October 10, 1926 with 2 1/3 hitless innings at Yankee Stadium to cement the World Championship.
Having already won over 300 career games with the Phillies and Cubs at that point, Alexander had been purchased from Chicago on June 22. He had feuded with Cubs management and reportedly had both missed games and shown up at the ballpark drunk.
With the Cardinals, Pete rejuvenated his career, continuing to win after the 1926 title, including 21 victories in 1927 and 16 more in 1928 at the age of 41. Alexander was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1938 after retiring in a tie for the third-most wins in MLB history, 373.
His final 55 regular-season victories were with St. Louis, along with two World Series wins in 1926 and that one ever-so-important save.