He was a star from the moment he first stepped on the field. Yeah, yeah, I know, it was still Giants, Cubs, Pirates, 1-2-3, and Philadelphia a distant fourth, but Grover Cleveland Alexander gave the Phillies a new shine, quickly recognized by a 50% attendance increase in spite of the continuing brilliance of Connie Mack’s A’s who won 101 games. With Alexander leading the way, the Phillies started fast; by the end of May, with Alex at 9-2, they led the league. After beating the Giants four out of five in an early July showdown, and continuing the push through the month, they led by a game heading into August. The rookie, Alexander, was at 21- 6, with two shutouts; he recorded four more shutouts, including a 1-0 triumph in a one-for-the-ages matchup with 500-game winner, Cy Young, in his final year, back in the National League with the Boston Rattlers (after four years as the Doves, the Beaneaters now in the nostalgia dugout).  But after beginning August with a 56-37 record, the team ran out of steam, losing 36 of their final 59 games including a season-ending seven-game losing streak. Alexander could only manage a 7-7 record over the final three months and finished at 28-13, with six shutouts and a 2.57 ERA.

A Major League baseball team has been pictured as a puzzle where the winners have perfectly, or nearly perfectly matched pieces. Assembling those pieces in modern times is the job of the General Manager, but in 1911, that job was possibly handled by the club owner, but more likely left to the team manager, his coach or coaches. With that in mind, it seems reasonable to credit manager Red Dooin, and his fellow catcher/coach, Pat Moran for seeing something special in Pete Alexander. The first Big Piece. Certainly veterans Dooin and Moran were there to teach the rookie what it took, other than talent, to be a successful Major League pitcher. The next few years would demonstrate what kind of a student Pete Alexander was. 

And another thing: Dooin and Moran were ready to sacrifice their own egos for the sake of bringing in a young catcher to grow with their prize rookie. He was Bill Killefer, fast enough to be called Reindeer Bill, though it’s likely this was another of those ironic thrusts because in a 13-year career, Killefer averaged about three stolen bases per year. Certainly he was nimble enough to handle errant pitches, and strong-armed enough to throw out 50% or more of hopeful basestealers. He was Reindeer Bill Killefer, and he was an important piece. With Dooin and Moran there to teach, Killefer became one of the best defensive catchers of his era, and is credited with development of future star catchers Bob O’Farrell, Gabby Hartnett, Rick Ferrell, and Walker Cooper. The catching fraternity, proud to wear “the tools of ignorance,” is tight knit.      

  And finally, in September of 1911, the Phillies found another piece: from the Minneapolis franchise in the American Association, they purchased a power-hitting outfielder named Clifton Carlton Cravath, a man with two nicknames – they called him Cactus, but more often, Gavvy. In a nine-year career with the Phillies, Gavvy Cravath would lead the league in homeruns six times. 

The 1911 World’s Series was won by the Philadelphia A’s for the second straight year, this time over the Giants. When A’s third baseman, Frank Baker homered off Christy Mathewson in the ninth inning of game three to tie the score at 1-1, he became known ever after as “Home Run” Baker. The A’s went on to win that game in 11 innings to take a 2-1 lead in the Series that they would eventually win, after a week rain delay, four games to two. Baker’s dramatic game three homerun followed a 2-run game-deciding homerun in game two.

By max blue
Bill Killefer, Bob O'Farrell, Boston Beaneaters, Christy Mathewson, Frank Baker, Gabby Hartnett, Gavvy Cravath, Pat Moran, Pete Alexander, Philadelphia Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, Red Dooin, Rick Ferrell, Walker Cooper


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