Alexander tossed 16 shutouts in 1916

Alexander tossed 16 shutouts in 1916

"A shutout is a statistic credited to a pitcher who allows no runs in a game. No pitcher shall be credited with pitching a shutout unless he pitches the complete game, or unless he enters the game with none out before the opposing team has scored in the first inning, puts out the side without a run scoring and pitches the rest of the game without allowing a run. When two more pitchers combine to pitch a shutout, the league statistician shall make a notation to that effect in the league's official pitching records," Major League Baseball rule 10.18.

That's the rule, and the pitcher who rules the world for most shutouts in a season is right-hander Grover Cleveland Alexander, pitching for the Phillies in 1916. At age 29, he did it 16 times, breaking his own club record of 12 set the previous season. A 33-game winner, almost half were shutouts, a very rare feat.

Phillies alumni

Along the way, he broke the Major League record of 13 by Jack Combs (31-game winner with Philadelphia A's, 1910). Alexander's 30th win came in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader on Sept. 23rd against Cincinnati, 7-3. Manager Pat Moran approached his ace after that game,

"I'll have to ask you to pitch the second game. We have only a little more than an hour to catch the train. Get it over fast."

He did, 4-0, in 2:07.

• The 16 shutouts were split evenly between the road and the Baker Bowl.

• In addition, Alexander had four games (all wins) in which he allowed one run. On June 12, Pittsburgh scored its run in the top of the ninth inning.

• He was shut out four times, three being 2-0.

• Twice he pitched back-to-back gems; once, three consecutive.

• Shutouts by the opponent: Cincinnati (five), Boston (three), Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and St. Louis (two each), Chicago and New York (one each). The five against Cincinnati tied a Major League record for the most against one team.

• Best months: May and August, four each.

• Four were 1-0 decisions, including a 12-inning game vs. Chicago.

• Three times he allowed only two hits.

• 1:22 was the fastest time.

• Total innings pitched in the shutouts: 144. Total number of walks issued: nine.

On Top Of That
Alexander also owns the club record for consecutive shutouts, four, Sept. 7,13, 17 and 21. This happened not in 1916, but in '11, when he posted seven as a rookie. During that streak, he had 41 consecutive scoreless innings, yet another Phillies record that hasn't been matched. Cliff Lee came the closest, with 34 in 2011.

When the Phillies won the pennant in 1915, Alexander was the ace, throwing a then-club-record 12 shutouts -- four being one-hitters. Right-handed pitcher Joe Oeschger was a teammate. Rich Westcott wrote a story about the 91-year-old Oeschger in Phillies Report in December 1983. Oeschger talked about Alexander.

"The key feature of the 1915 club was hitting," Oeschger said. "We had power hitters in Cravath and Luderus. We won a lot of close games. Of course, Alexander was our top pitcher. If you got him one or two runs, you would win the game. He was a stopper and could prevent a long losing streak.

"If I were to classify all the pitchers that I had contact with or witnessed, I would say Alexander was the greatest," continued Oeschger. "He was fantastic. In a way, he was just a natural pitcher, had wonderful control, his stuff was sharp and he was very difficult to hit safely. Alexander never threw the ball over the heart of the plate. It was either a little inside or outside. When you batted against him, you better start swinging or he would have a couple of strikes on you before you knew it. He worked every fourth day. He never had to be relieved. In those days if you couldn't pitch nine innings, you better start looking for another job."

In Alexander's career that also included stints with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, he amassed 90 shutouts, second only to Walter Johnson's 110. Sixty-one came in a Phillies uniform, a club record which will never be broken. Steve Carlton's 39 are a distant second.

So, how do three Phillies Hall of Fame pitchers stack up for most shutouts in a season? Carlton's high mark was eight in 1971; Jim Bunning, seven in '65 and Robin Roberts, six in '51. Fair to say, no contest.

Larry Shenk is the vice president of alumni relations for the Phillies. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.