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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #7 Grover Cleveland Alexander

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #7. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the players listed thus far, please click here. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back Monday morning for #6.

#7 – Grover Cleveland Alexander

Years: 1911-1917, 1930

190-91, 2.18 ERA, 1.075 WHIP in 2513.2 IP

Previous Rank: 5 (-2)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 3rd among pitchers, 8th among Phillies

First Phillie to be elected to Baseball Hall of Fame (1938)

Signature Accomplishment: Led the NL in Wins Five Seasons, ERA three times, Ks five times, IP six times, CG five times, SO four times, and WHIP twice

Oddball Fact: Was the only Phillies pitcher to have a win in the World Series for 65 years (1915 to 1980, Bob Walk)

Last Phillies Pitcher to win 30+ games (30, 1917) in a season

Won Pitching Triple-Crown as a Phillie from 1915 through 1917

The 6’1″ right-handed pitcher from Elba, NE nicknamed “Old Pete” was born Grover Cleveland Alexander on February 26, 1887, directly in the middle of President Grover Cleveland’s first of two non-consecutive terms. Like President Cleveland having two non-consecutive terms as president, Alexander would have two non-consecutive runs for as a Phillie. And like President Cleveland, Alexander’s first term was a lot more well received than his second.

Alexander had one of the all-time historic rookie campaigns, bursting on the scene like a flash of lightning. Alexander would set the modern, rookie record with an NL-leading 28 wins and threw 31 complete games. Alexander would be dominant in every sense of the word in his seven-year tenure with the Phillies: Alexander led the NL in Wins in five seasons, ERA three times, Ks five times, IP six times, CG five times, SO four times, and WHIP twice. Among his contemporaries, Alexander was neck and neck with Walter Johnson for the title of best pitcher in the Major Leagues and was clearly the National League’s finest.

From 1911 through 1917, Alexander led the National League in wins with 190, appearances, games started, IP, complete games, shutouts, and strikeouts by over 400 more than the next closest pitcher. Despite Alexander’s clear individual success, the Phillies would merely flirt with .500 (.516%) from 1911 through 1914. Alexander, however, would get even better for 1915, starting his string of three-straight NL Pitching Triple-Crowns with the Phillies en route to a 90-win season and the NL Pennant.

Alexander would win Game 1 for the Phillies, the only World Series game the Phillies would win for nearly 65 years. Alexander would lose a 2-1 pitcher’s duel to Dutch Leonard of the Red Sox in Game 3 and the Phillies would not see World Series baseball for another 35 years.

Alexander was traded from Philadelphia to the Chicago Cubs in what is the worst trade in Phillies, and perhaps Philadelphia sports, history. The Phillies received Pickles Dillhoefer and Mike Prendergrast for the 1918 campaign for Alexander. Dillhoefer was a light-hitting catcher who saw 13 PA with the Phillies in 1918 before being trade to St. Louis. Prendergrast was a Federal League standout that started just 31 games total for the Phillies in 1918 and 1919. Alexander would slow down a bit in Chicago, reeling off 128 wins in nine years with a 2.84 ERA before picking up 55 more with the Cardinals in four more seasons. “Old Pete” was 43 years old when he returned to the Phillies through a December 11, 1929 deal and would go 0-3 with a 9.14 ERA before hanging it up.

“Old Pete” was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938 and is enshrined as a Phillie. Alexander wound up winning 373 games total, good for third all-time, ranks 15th in baseball history by Baseball Reference’s version of Wins Above Replacement-Level and fourth among pitchers. Alexander’s stretch wasn’t super long and didn’t result in a title but it was one of the most dominant in baseball history. Because Alexander did not wear a number during his playing days, the Phillies have instead retired an English-script P in his honor. Alexander was elected on to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1981 as part of the third class of inductees.

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