Pitchers get a ton of attention and rightfully so. These guys are almost single handily responsible for if their team wins or loses on most game days. This kind of responsibility has made the position legendary and some of the best players ever in the league are pitchers. However, certain guys who were outstanding pitchers simply don’t get the attention their play deserves. And no one is more underrated at the pitching position than Grover Cleveland Alexander. If you don’t believe me, read on and take a trip down memory lane through this man’s illustrious career.
Born in Nebraska in 1887, Alexander was named after then-President of the United States, Grover Cleveland. From the time he was a child, baseball was his game. He played semi-pro ball throughout his youth and teen years and signed his first professional baseball contract at the age of 20 for $50 a month. He made an immediate impact on the team he played for, but in 1909, his career almost ended before it started.
While baserunning, he was struck by a thrown ball which was thought to have seriously injured him. And while he ended up missing the rest of the 1909 season due to the sustained injuries, he returned in 1910 and his star shined even brighter as he amassed an amazing 29-11 record in class D ball. This record was enough to warrant interest from the MLB as the Philadelphia Phillies purchased his contract for $750.
He made his MLB debut in 1911 and instantly showed people he was no joke. In his rookie season, he led the MLB in wins with 28 (which is still a rookie record) and was second and fourth in strikeouts and ERA respectively. This helped him finish 3rd in MVP voting in the league (at this time, there was no Cy Young award to be given, but if there was, good chance he would have won it multiple times).
The first ten years of this guy’s career were arguably the best 10 years of any pitchers career ever. He led the league in ERA, wins and shutouts five times and innings pitched and strikeouts six times. He also won the prestigious triple crown in pitching three times in that period. The triple crown occurs when a single pitcher leads the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA.
But the reason he is likely so underrated and doesn’t appear on many people’s top 5 and top 10 lists is that the last 9 years of his career weren’t anything to write home about. While they weren’t horrific, they couldn’t even compare to his previous seasons. While some fault him for this, I do not. This is because he was in his mid-30s to early-40s in this period, so it makes sense for him to regress a bit. Either way, there is no way a guy who is 3rd all-time in wins and won almost twice as many games as he lost doesn’t deserve mention in the lists of the best pitchers ever.