The Highs, the Lows, the Record-Breakers of Professional Sports

This signed 1940 Playball Grover Cleveland Alexander #119 SGC Authentic will be auctioned by Heritage Auctions on Nov. 17.

By Jim O’Neal

In 1949, police in Hollywood, Calif., discovered what appeared to be just another drunk unconscious in an alley. Upon further investigation, it turned out to be Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander (nicknamed “Ol’ Pete” for reasons unknown).

Despite a lifelong battle with epilepsy and alcoholism, he managed to win 373 games. (Ronald Reagan portrayed him in the 1952 film The Winning Team with Doris Day. The movie was widely panned.)

Alexander still holds the National League record of 90 shutouts, but he couldn’t shut out the booze and died the next year at age 63, penniless and homeless.

Larry Bird’s game-worn 1979-80 Boston Celtics rookie uniform sold for $22,705 in July 2014.

Larry Joe Bird was a member of the 1992 U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team (The Dream Team) that won gold in Barcelona.

Bird was voted to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996 and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.

Not bad for a kid from French Lick, Ind., who was drafted into the NBA sixth overall by the Boston Celtics, where he was a 12-time NBA All Star.

He is the only player in NBA history to be named MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year (he ran out of categories, apparently).

The first post-1900, modern-day pitcher to strike out 18 batters in a single game was Bob Feller.

Tom Cheney holds the all-time record of 21 strikeouts (1962), but it was a 16-inning game.

Perhaps more impressive are the 20 strikeouts in nine innings by Kerry Wood (1998) and Randy Johnson in 2001, something that Roger Clemens did twice … in 1986 and again in 1996.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].