International League opens HOF, will induct Troy native’s grandpa

International League opens HOF, will induct Troy native’s grandpa
International League opens HOF, will induct Troy native’s grandpa

Former Boston Red Sox first baseman Dale Alexander, far right, will be inducted into the International League’s Baseball Hall of Fame. Alexander’s grand son Dale Alexander lives in Troy and great-grand son David Alexander also lives in the area.
Though gone from this earth since 1979, former Major League Baseball star Dale “Moose” Alexander has not been forgotten.
The grandfather of Troy native Dale Alexander and great-grandfather of David Alexander, also of Troy, is among a class of 27 players and executives set to be inducted into the International League’s Baseball Hall of Fame this year.
Alexander’s induction is set for Saturday evening in Louisville and he will be enshrined alongside knuckleballer Bobby Tiefenauer.
His sons, Don and Steve Alexander of East Tennessee, will accept the posthumous honor along with Dale and David Alexander.
Overall, the class of 2008 is the league’s second group to be inducted into the triple-A baseball circuit’s Hall of Fame since it was reopened last year after 40-plus years of dormancy.
This year’s list of inductees includes notables such as former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, ESPN analyst and National Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan and Red Sox great Jim Rice.
Alexander, who was born in Greeneville, began his professional baseball career in 1925 and he played in the minor leagues through 1928.
During the 1928 season, he won the International League’s triple crown with a .380 batting average, 31 home runs and 144 runs batted in while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With that said, his grandson with his namesake (Dale), says knowing the man meant more than any statistics or awards that a baseball historian could unearth.
“I knew my grandfather was a heck of a baseball player and I remember him telling some baseball stories when I was young,” Dale Alexander said. “However, I was more impressed with the fact that he was a devoted Christian and family man and by how much he loved us grandchildren.
“My fondest memories are of us at his farm up in Greene County, where we’d just walk along the fence row, cutting weeds down and just doing those normal things that anyone does with their grandparents.”
On the field, Alexander was anything but normal during his International League run. In Alexander’s three seasons of play in the IL (1927-28,’34), he averaged 200 hits and 120 runs batted in per campaign.
After his initial success in the minor leagues, the 6-foot-3 first baseman got his chance to play and excel alongside the baseball giants of the day with the Detroit Tigers.
During his rookie season in 1929, Alexander led the American League in hits (215) and he was fifth or better in seven offensive statistical categories.
“Moose” placed second in the AL in extra base hits — ahead of Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig in that category — and he was also second in total bases that year.
Three years later, Alexander began the 1932 season in a slump with a .250 batting average through the first two months of the season.
The Tigers elected to trade him to the Boston Red Sox in June of that year in exchange for Earl Webb.
The BoSox ended up on the right end of that exchange with Webb floundering as a Tiger.
Meanwhile, Alexander’s bat came alive in Boston with the Tennessee native bettering Foxx by three points to win the American League’s batting championship (.367) and deny Foxx the triple crown.
However, just as it appeared that Alexander’s career was taking off, the end of his big league run was quickly approaching.
On May 30, 1933, Alexander injured his knee while fielding a ball during a game at Philadelphia. The result of the experimental diathermy treatment administered by team doctors at the time was gangrene and the eventual end of his major league career.
“He was never bitter about the way his career ended or toward the game in general,” his grandson Dale told The Messenger. “He loved the game and he continued to work in it whether it be in the minor leagues, as a college coach or as a scout even after his playing days were behind him.
“He enjoyed passing along the fundamentals of the game to the younger generation, especially college players.”
After the injury, Alexander trudged through nine more seasons in the minor leagues with his batting average well above .300 in all but his final campaign.
However, the mobility required to field at first base at the big league level on a daily basis was a remnant of the past and the designated hitter rule was still decades away.
After his retirement from active competition, Alexander stayed close to the game, though.
He served as a scout for the New York and San Francisco Giants from 1951-63 and for the Milwaukee Braves in 1964 before returning to Greeneville, where he lived until his death at age 75 in 1979.
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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