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The Best Team Over There

The Untold Story of Grover Cleveland Alexander and the Great War

Jim Leeke

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 03/2021
Pages: 280
Subject: Sports and Recreation
eBook ISBN: 9781496226396


Grover Cleveland Alexander was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, with 373 career victories during twenty seasons in the Major Leagues. Elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938, the right-hander remains a compelling—and tragic—figure. "Pete" Alexander's military service during World War I was the demarcation line between his great seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and his years of struggle and turmoil with the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals after the Great War. Indeed, Alexander's service during World War I has all but been forgotten, even though it dramatically changed his life—and his game. Alexander served in the 342nd Field Artillery Regiment, which included big leaguers and star athletes among its officers and men. Naturally, the regiment fielded an outstanding baseball team, but it also faced hard service during the final weeks of the war. After the armistice in November 1918, the unit undertook occupation duty in Germany.The Best Team Over There examines this crucial period closely: where Alexander was stationed, how he was trained, how he withstood the effects of combat and shelling, how he interacted with his fellow athletes and soldiers, and how the war changed his baseball career, revealing for the first time the little-known details of this critical stage in the legendary pitcher's life and career. We can't truly understand Alexander and his enduring appeal to baseball fans without also understanding his life as a gunner and soldier.  


Jim Leeke is a retired copywriter and creative director as well as a U.S. Navy veteran. He is the author of several books, including From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball during the Great War (Nebraska, 2017), winner of the Larry Ritter Book Award and a SABR Baseball Research Award.  


"Jim Leeke hits it out of the park again with the tale of Grover Cleveland Alexander, a Great War ballplayer who tasted the highs of fame, lows of the trenches, and—tragically—just too much booze."—Dean Karayanis, radio host of the History Author Show in New York City

"Coming off his award-winning From the Dugouts to the Trenches, Jim Leeke follows up with the extraordinary story of the Great War, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and ballplayers who became artillerymen. It's a perfect mix of military history and baseball that will completely absorb you."—Jan Finkel, 2012 recipient of SABR's Bob Davids Award

"No one writes about the connections between baseball and World War I with more authority and accuracy than Jim Leeke. Now he places Grover Cleveland Alexander under his microscope, following Old Pete from call to service through training to the front lines of a horrific war. The result is a story that will swell you with pride and reduce you to tears."—Rick Huhn, author of The Chalmers Race: Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie, and the Controversial 1910 Batting Title That Became a National Obsession