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Random Game Callback, July 8, 1921
2006-07-08 03:59
by Bob Timmermann

An unearned run in the ninth inning was the only tally at the Polo Grounds as the New York Giants stayed 4 1/2 games out of first with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Cubs.

The game was a matchup of two of the NL's top pitchers. Chicago, managed by Johnny Evers, started Pete Alexander (aka Grover Cleveland Alexander), who had won 27 games for the Cubs the previous year and had also led the NL in strikeouts and ERA. New York's John McGraw started Art Nehf, who had won 21 games the previous season.

Both pitchers were on their games. Nehf allowed just three singles the whole game and had no walks. Rightfielder Max Flack, second baseman John Kelleher, and centerfielder George Maisel accounted for all of the Chicago offense.

The Giants were able to create a bit more offense, with seven hits against Alexander and three walks. All but one hit was a single, a two-out triple by catcher Earl Smith in the fifth. But Nehf couldn't get him home.

The New York Times story had this passage:

If Alexander was going fast, you couldn't see Nehf at all because of his blinding gait. He had everything -- pace, accuracy, and bewildering shoots. He ate up the guests as if they had been freshly-made doughnuts and he a hungry hobo.

It took some gifts from Alexander for the Giants to win it. With one out, second baseman Frankie Frisch walked. Right fielder Ross Youngs singled Frisch to third. First baseman Mike Gonzalez was due up (Gonzalez was filling in for George Kelly), but McGraw opted to send newly-acquired Casey Stengel up to pinch hit. Alexander walked him and the newspaper account considered it intentional. Centerfielder Curt Walker grounded to Kelleher, who booted it while trying for a double play and Frisch scored the winning run.

The Giants were able to flag down the Pirates as the season went on. The Giants would win 16 of 22 games against Pittsburgh, including a five-game sweep at home in August. The Giants were 94-59 and beat out the Pirates by four games. The Cubs finished in seventh at 64-89, 30 games out. The Giants went on to beat the Yankees in the last best of nine World Series, 5-3. All eight games were played at the Polo Grounds. The Giants would win the NL each season from 1921-24.

New York had the best offense in the NL, leading the league with 840 runs. The Giants offense got a boost when Walker was traded to Philadelphia for Irish Meusel, who would play against his brother Bob Meusel in the World Series. Nehf would go 20-10. While Babe Ruth was hitting 59 home runs in the AL, the Giants hit just 75 on their own. Kelly led the NL with 23 homers.

As for Chicago, the team was a mess. Alexander had his worst season to date in the majors. He went just 15-13 with a 3.39 ERA and struck out just 77 batters, down from 173 the season before. The rest of the pitching staff was far worse and the Cubs had the seventh highest ERA in the league at 4.39. Evers lost his job as manager in August and catcher Bill Killefer took over.

Alexander had a great career, but a sad life. He was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the National League, winning 373 games, including three straight seasons where he won 30 games. But he was bothered by epilepsy in his adulthood (possibly an aftereffect from a head injury he suffered in the minors) and turned to drinking to cover it up, which was not unusual at the time. Jan Finkel wrote a profile of him as part of the SABR Bioproject.

Sources: Retrosheet,, SABR Bioproject, New York Times

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