A No-Hitter for Alex the Great

This article was written by Al Kermisch

This article was published in the 1974 Baseball Research Journal


Grover Cleveland Alexander won 373 games in the National League to tie him with Christy Mathewson for the most career wins in the senior circuit.   The great Alexander, however, never pitched a no-hitter in the majors, although he did come close in 1915, when he set a big league mark by hurling four one-hit games — one in which he did not allow a bingle until two were out in the ninth inning.   That game was played on June 5, when he defeated the Cardinals 3-0 in St. Louis.   It was a single by second baseman Artie Butler that spoiled Alexander’s gem.   With the count one and one Artie lined the ball over Alexander’s head.   Alex leaped up and missed it and the ball hit on the grass in back of second.   Bob Bescher then struck out to end the game.

Perhaps overlooked by Alexander’s biographers is the fact that he did pitch a no-hitter in his first season in Organized Baseball in the Illinois-Missouri League in 1909.   His gem was authored on July 22, when he defeated the Canton team 2-0 in a game played at Galesburg.  Only 29 men faced him and three reached first base – on a pass, an error and a hit batsman.   Three days later Alexander pitched a spectacular 1-0 18-inning victory over the Macomb club.   Grover allowed only eight hits, fanned 19, did not walk a man and hit one batter.

Alexander spent two years in the minors before advancing to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1911.  His work was outstanding in both of his early minor league seasons, but a serious injury which left him with double vision set him back temporarily.  He won 15, lost 8, with six shutouts, in his first year at Galesburg, and his pitching was sensational right up until the time he suffered the injury in late July.  Alexander was hit in the right temple by a thrown ball on an attempted double play.   He was running from first to second when the shortstop’s throw hit him.   He was unconscious for 36 hours, and when he revived he saw everything double.  Alexander even had doubts about resuming his career.    “I didn’t see how I was going to pitch to two hitters at the same time when there was only one at the plate,” was the way Alex explained it when reminiscing about the injury years later.

Before the injury, one report had Alexander being purchased by the Cincinnati Reds;    another report indicated that the St. Louis Browns had offered $500 for him, but interest vanished when the extent of his injury became known.   Owner William H. Watkins of the Indianapolis club of the American Association heard about Alexander’s exploits and purchased him from the Galesburg club, deciding to take his chances on Alexander’s recovery.    Alex did join that club for the last few weeks of the 1909 season.   His sight problem hack not completely cleared up, however, and he did not get into a championship game.

Alexander was used as a batting practice pitcher at Indianapolis, and he did not help his chances of getting into a regular game when he hit Charlie Carr in the ribs with a fast ball.    Carr happened to be the manager of the club, and after Alex hit a few other batters, Carr kept him on the bench for the rest of the 1909 season.

Alexander was examined by a doctor in Indianapolis and was told that one or two nerves in back of his eyes were affected, but that the problem would clear up in time.  He was bothered by the ailment for the rest of that year, but he was all right again by next spring.    Indianapolis did not ask him to report for spring training, and he had visions of his professional career being over.    When the club got back to Indianapolis, however, Alex was called in.  He did appear in several intra-squad games, but just prior to the opening of the season he was shipped to the Syracuse club of the New York State League on loan.

Alexander’s pattern at Syracuse was similar to that at Galesburg.   After a slow start he finished the campaign in spectacular fashion, only the end of the season stopping his streak of 52 consecutive scoreless innings and six straight shutouts.   His 29 victories for the year included 14 shutout games.   Up until the middle of the campaign the Syracuse press had accused Alexander of being a bit on the lazy side but after he beat Wilkes-Barre twice on July 20 (both well-pitched nine-inning games), he was referred to as “Iron Man” Alexander thereafter.

After his great finish at Syracuse, Alexander was tipped off to the Phillies.  They put in a draft for him, as did Detroit of the American League.  At the same time, the Indianapolis club exercised its option and recalled him for the 1911 season.  He was awarded to the Phils, however, and the rest is history.

Alexander’s 20 shutouts in his first two minor league seasons, coupled with his 90 major league blankings, gives him a total of 110 for his Organized Baseball career, second only to Walter .Johnson’s total of 113 for his major league career.

The Box score of Alexander’s no-hitter:

GALESBURG

R

H

PO

CANTON

R

H

PO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kilpatrick, CF

0

1

0

Anderson, SS

0

0

3

Shields, 2B

1

0

1

Harlow, C

0

0

2

Neer, lB

0

1

9

Uliman, CF

0

0

3

Rhoads,RF

0

0

0

Mills, LF

0

0

3

Crosley, LF

0

1

2

Stadfelt, 3B

0

0

1

Lindberg, SS

0

0

1

Dowling, 2B

0

0

3

Cornell, SS

0

0

0

Beitz, RF

0

0

0

Hilding, C

1

1

10

Lowrey, lB

0

0

9

ALEXANDER, P

0

0

4

Tomman, P

0

0

0

 

2

4

27

 

0

0

24

Macomb        000 000 000–0

Galesburg     000 100 0lx—2

Stolen Bases — Rhoads,Crosley, Hilding.

Double Plays — Anderson to Harlow to Stadfelt; Anderson

                                    to Dowling; Lowrey to Anderson to Dowling.

Struck Out —    by ALEXANDER 10; by Tomman 1.

Bases on Balls — Of f ALEXANDER 1; off Tomman 4.

Hit by Pitcher — By ALEXANDER 1. Umpire — Jeffries.

© SABR. All Rights Reserved