powered by AFI
DVDs from TCM Shop
In 1908, in rural Nebraska, telephone linemen Grover Cleveland Alexander is saving to buy a farm, so that he and sweetheart Aimee Arrants can marry, but his neighbors know that he would rather be playing baseball. When Alex stands up Aimee and her father to pitch against a "real" team from Galesburg, Illinois, Aimee's father reneges on giving them the down payment on the farm as a wedding present. However, Alex's strong, accurate pitching gets the attention of the team's manager, George Glasheen, who offers him $100 a week to pitch. Alex cannot resist the offer and joins the team, but sends his earnings to Aimee to put in the bank for their farm. However, during the season, he is struck in the head by a relay pitch and is knocked unconscious for three days, awakening with double vision. Unable to pitch accurately, Alex marries Aimee and resigns himself to farming, but secretly makes frustrated efforts to practice. At Christmas, Aimee admits to her mother-in-law that she was secretly glad when he had to give up baseball, but would now give anything for his happiness. During the winter, Glasheen trades Alex to Philadelphia, and after Alex's vision returns one morning in early spring, he and Aimee leave for spring training. At a pre-season game at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, Aimee befriends Margaret, the wife of catcher Bill Killefer, and begins to learn the details of the game, while Alex strikes out his opponents. During the next few years, Alex's pitching makes him a baseball hero. In 1915, while playing in St. Louis, Bill tells Alex that opponent Cardinal rookie, Rogers Hornsby, is about to be dropped unless he makes a hit, so when Hornsby comes up to bat, Alex generously throws him a pitch down the middle, which he easily hits. In 1917, both Alex and Bill are sold to the Chicago Cubs, but Alex is soon drafted and while in France, suffers dizziness. After the war, Chicago sports fans welcome Alex back, but Alex, now suffering dizzy spells, collapses on the field. The team doctor assumes that Alex suffered a sunstroke from the 104 degree temperature, but Alex secretly visits Dr. Johnson Conant, who diagnoses epilepsy and believes that Alex should quit baseball, as each blackout will leave him with less strength. Overwhelmed by the news, Alex makes Conant promise not to reveal his diagnosis. He then wanders the streets dejectedly, until he is invited into a speakeasy by a fan, and drinks too much. The next day, the newspaper reports that Alex is a "lush." Although he is not pitching well, Alex tries to hide his illness from Aimee and the team, but continues to drink. Confused by his behavior, Aimee leaves him. Later, when Alex is found passed out in the street, Joe McCarthy, the Cubs manager, fires him and sports fans are mystified why "Alex the Great" has fallen so low. After reading about Alex's troubles, Conant searches for Aimee to tell her about his disease. Meanwhile, Alex drifts from minor league teams to local teams and then drops out of sight. When he is found by the private investigator Aimee hires, he is part of a carnival sideshow. Aimee begs Hornsby, who is now the Cardinals' manager, to give Alex a chance. After consulting with Bill, Hornsby risks the team's opportunity for the pennant and hires Alex, who makes a splendid comeback. In 1926, the Cardinals are up against the Yankees in the World Series. The opener is to be the first game broadcast transcontinentally and the largest crowd ever is in attendance. Although everyone assumes a Yankee victory, Alex strikes out Babe Ruth and the Cardinals win. That night, seeing how tired Aimee is, Alex tells her that he looks for her in the stands and steals energy from her. The next day, which is the final game of the series, Alex is not scheduled to pitch, so Aimee stays home to pack. However, during the game, the pitcher develops a blister and Hornsby calls Alex to pitch. At home, when Aimee learns that Alex will be playing, she drops everything and rushes to the station. In the seventh inning, with the score 3-2 in the Cardinals' favor, the Yankees have loaded the bases with two outs. Alex is feeling dizzy, but sees Aimee in the stands as Tony Lazzeri comes up to bat. With the strength he gets from Aimee, Alex strikes Lazzeri out, and the Cardinals win the World Series. Alex's heroics become part of baseball legend.