Pivotal World Series Plays
Old Pete Strikes Out Lazzeri
1926 World Series Game 7: St. Louis Cardinals @ New York Yankees
The Cardinals lead 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th. But the Yankees load the bases with two outs against Jesse Haines on a single by Earle Combs, a sacrifice, an intentional walk to Babe Ruth, a forceout, and a walk to Lou Gehrig. The next batter was 2B Tony Lazzeri.
In what follows, the italicized quotes are from the transcript of Graham McNamee's radio broadcast of the game that was printed in the New York Times.
Lazzeri is up, and the crowd is again shouting, "Poosh-em-up-Tony," "Poosh-em-up-Tony." Again the Cardinal infield is all gathering around the pitcher's box. ... I think that the instructions at the last moment were to let Gehrig walk to get at the man who has already struck out twice today ... It is a long, long wait. I don't know what it is all about, a lot of conversation. Cardinals player-manager Rogers Hornsby would reveal after the game that Haines had developed blisters on his pitching hand. So he calls for a new pitcher from the bullpen beyond the OF wall.
Babe Ruth recalled: "Haines was complaining of a blister on a finger and kept looking at his hands and shaking it. Hornsby finally came to the pitcher's box, talked to him a bit, and then beckoned out to the bull pen in left field for a relief pitcher. We had seen old Aleck trudge out there a few innings before, but two or three younger and fresher Cardinal throwers were warmed up and ready to step in - and we could hardly believe it when the old fellow himself came through the bullpen gate and started walking slowly toward the infield. ... Hornsby met him in short left field and stopped him. For a long time Hornsby looked Aleck sharply in the eyes, and whatever he saw satisfied him. For he let him go the rest of the way to the box."
Cardinal 3B Les Bell recalled the situation 52 years later. "I can see him yet, walking in from the LF bullpen through the gray mist. The Yankee fans recognized him right off, and you didn't hear a sound from anywhere in Yankee Stadium as they sat still and watched him. And he took his time. Grover Cleveland Alexander was never in a hurry, and especially not this day. ... He just came strag­gling along, a lean old Nebraskan, his face wrinkled, wearing a Cardinal sweater, his cap sitting on the top of his head and tilted to one side - that's the way he wore it. We were all standing on the mound waiting for him .... And don't think when Alec walked in it wasn't slower than ever - he wanted Lazzeri to stand up there as long as possible, thinking about the situation. When Alec reached the mound Rog handed him the ball and said, 'There's two out and they're drunk [meaning the bases were loaded] and Lazzeri's the hitter.'
"'O.K.,' Alec said. 'I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to throw the first one to him fast.'
"'No, no,' Rog said. 'You can't throw him a fastball.'
"Alec said patiently, 'Yes I can. If he swings at it he'll most likely hit it on the handle, or if he hits it good it'll go foul. Then I'm going to come outside with my breaking pitch.'
"Rog looked him over for a moment, gave a slow smile and said, 'Who am I to tell you how to pitch?'
"To show you what kind of pitcher Alec was and the kind of thinking he did, he said, 'I've got to get Lazzeri out now. Then in the eighth I've got to get ... one, two, three. In the ninth I've got to get Combs and I've got to get Koenig, one, two, so when the big son of a bitch comes up there [meaning Babe Ruth of course] the best he can do is tie the ball game.' He had it figured out that Ruth was going to be the last hitter in the ninth inning.
"So we all went back to our positions and Alec got set to work. ... He was nearly 40 years old but, doggone, there wasn't another man in the world I would have rather seen out there at that moment than Grover Cleveland Alexander."
As he told Hornsby after Game 6, Alexander didn't warm up in the bullpen. Reaching the mound, he takes off his red sweater and throws his eight allotted practice pitches. (Some accounts say he threw only three or four.)
Lazzeri steps in. C Bob O'Farrell squats and gives a sign, but it's merely a decoy.
Alex later explained, "He don't pay no attention to me, and I don't pay no attention to him ... I just pitch whatever I happen to want to pitch, and I know Bob will get 'em all."
True to his plan that had sent Tony home 0-for-4 in Game 6, Pete throws a curve that stays inside. 1-0. Then a high fast ball over the plate. 1-1. Lazzeri gets around on the next curve and drives it hard but foul into the seats down the LF line, just as Pete figured he would.
Ruth: "With the count one and one, Tony then hit a blazing line drive into the left-field stands, but it just curved foul. If the ball had been fair, it would have meant four runs, and Tony would have been the hero of the year. But it missed. That is baseball. The count on Tony was two strikes and one ball."
Alexander then fires a curve ball breaking low and outside that Lazzeri lunges at and misses. He struck him out! Alexander the Great comes in and strikes out Tony Lazzeri, retiring the side. The entire Cardinal team has rushed over to Alexander, petting him and patting him on the back, and are simply wild over him.
Afterward, Pete was asked how he felt after fanning Lazzeri. "How did I feel? Go and ask Lazzeri how he felt. I felt fine. ... The strain naturally was on Lazzeri."
Tony Lazzeri strikes out in 7th inning.
Tony Lazzeri strikes out with the bases loaded.
The Cardinals couldn't score an insurance run against Herb Pennock in the 8th and 9th. Meanwhile, Old Alex set down the Yanks in order in the bottom of the 8th. Then in the 9th, he walked Ruth semi-intentionally with two outs and none on. Then with Bob Meusel at the plate, Ruth decided to steal second but was thrown out by O'Farrell - the only time a World Series ended with a caught stealing.

The Cardinals congratulate Alexander after the final out.
Debate continues to the present day concerning Alexander's sobriety level when he entered Game 7 of the 1926 World Series.
First of all, it was no secret that he was an alcoholic, particularly after serving as an artillery sergeant in World War I. He suffered from shell shock and returned home with a partial loss of hearing and ever-worsening epileptic seizures.
Stories of the 24 hours from the end of Game 6 to the end of Game 7 have ranged from Alex being sober because Hornsby told him he might need to use him in the final game to Pete going on a binder all night and sleeping off his hangover in the bullpen with a flask in his back pocket.
But in the same Sports Illustrated article cited above, Les Bell vigorously denied that Grover was drunk when he came to the mound in Game 7.
"When you hear those stories about how Alec didn't think he might have to pitch the next day and was out all night celebrating and how he was hung over when he came in, that's a lot of bunk. I saw him around the hotel the night before, for goodness sakes. I don't say he didn't have a drink, but he was around most of the night. ...
There are so many legends associated with that strikeout [of Lazzeri]. They say that Hornsby walked out to LF to meet Alec, to look in his eyes and make sure they were clear. And so on. All a lot of bunk. ... If you stop to think about it, no man could have done what Alec did if he was drunk or even a little soggy. Not the way he pitched that day, and not the way his mind was working. Everybody knows that he was a drinker and that he had a problem with it, but he was not drunk when he walked into the ball game that day. No way."
In his autobiography, Babe Ruth repeated the common view about Alexander but added a surprising comment of his own. "Everybody knew about the celebration old Aleck had attended that Saturday night, figuring he wouldn't be used again for the remainder of the Series. But not many knew that some of our own fellows had been out that same night - prematurely celebrating a Series victory that never came to us."