By 1926 he was an aging, drunken, has-been baseball pitcher – nothing but a pale ghost of his former self.
Double Vision to Double Life
Early in his career a head injury from a hard throw had left him unconscious for two days and with permanent double vision. From the injury he also began to suffer from epileptic seizures. But a few years later his vision inexplicably returned and he went on to become one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He is Grover Cleveland Alexander.
His Major League record of 16 shutouts in a single season stands to this day. He was the only pitcher in Major League history to win the Triple Crown three consecutive years (1915-1917). And he still holds the National League record for most career wins (371) and most career shutouts (90).
But he had been raised in a family of alcoholism and he also yielded to its grip. He used the alcohol to cope with the pressures of the pitching mound and with his epilepsy. But it began to rob him of his pitching performance.
Then came WWI. He served his country as an artillery officer in war-torn France and witnessed such carnage and horrors, that alcohol again became a way of self-medicating. The drink not only soothed his nightmares, but also numbed his shell shock, incurred from relentless blasts of artillery rounds – which also left him almost deaf. Following the war, alcohol tightened its grip more and more, until there seemed to be nothing left of the 40-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander.
A Second Chance
So the Chicago Cubs manager, Joseph McCarthy, did what any sane person would do. He got rid of him. But the brilliant owner of the Saint Louis Cardinals, Branch Ricky, saw something good in Alexander and believed the broken old man still had a future.
So he hired him to pitch for the Cardinals. That year Alexander led the Cardinals to the World Series. In the Championship, Alexander had his greatest moments, starting in two games and relieving in one – winning all three games – against the unbeatable New York Yankees. Yes, Grover Cleveland Alexander had his greatest yet to give. He also had someone who believed in him.
Many of us reach a point in life where we’re convinced we have no tomorrow and our lives are ruined beyond repair. But there is someone who believes in us, even when we are at our very worst. It is our heavenly Father. The Scripture says, “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, God made us alive with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Dear Father in heaven, when I fail and lose all hope for myself, please take the broken pieces of my life, put them back together, raise me up to newness of life and do good and great things in my life. Amen.