(KPLR) – In Monday's Jacology, Charles Jaco looks back in history introducing us to a tragic hero of the Cardinals' first world championship team.
War changes people. The lucky ones come home, shove what happened into a box, try to forget and get on with their lives. The unlucky ones turn to booze or drugs or violence or suicide. Nowadays, we call it PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. In World War II they called it battle fatigue. In World War I, it was shell shock. Some people who suffer from it are lucky and unlucky. They get on with their lives, but they can't shut out the terror and blood and death. That was Pete Alexander.
Grover Cleveland Alexander began his hall of fame career as a pitcher with the Phillies in 1911. By 1926 he was a grizzled alcoholic, playing for the Cardinals. Nicked named Old Pete, Grover Cleveland Alexander wasn't a jovial drunk like Babe Ruth. He was somber and moody. He won games two and six of the 1926 World Series for the Cardinals. Ingame seven, legend goes; he was either royally hung over or still tipsy when he was brought in to pitch relief in the seventh inning, even though he'd pitched a complete game the day before. The bases were loadedand Pete Alexander struck out Tony Lazzari to end the inning and pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth as the cards won their first world series title.
Alexander had been drafted and spent 1918 as a sergeant with the 342nd Field Artillery in World War I. He was exposed to a German mustard gas attack that scarred his lungs. He saw men die in some pretty horrible ways. Shells bursting near him cost him half his hearing and triggered bouts of epilepsy that lasted the rest of his life. Sometimes when he had a seizure people thought he was drunk. Other times, he really was drunk, trying to bury the war and the screams of the dying and the artillery concussions in an ocean of alcohol. He won 20 games in 1927. But the booze finally won.
Pete Alexander was elected to the hall of fame in 1938. He died in 1950. In 1952 he was played by future President Ronald Reagan in a pretty lousy movie called, “The Winning Team”. He won thirty games twice. He saved the 1926 World Series for the Cardinals. He essentially drank himself to death. He was lucky, he was unlucky. He was a man with amazing talent who lived his life trying to forget.
I'm Charles Jaco and that's Jacology.