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Throwback Photo of the Day: Grover Cleveland Alexander gives a talk at Hubert's Flea Circus

Grover Cleveland Alexander speaks at NYC flea circus

Times Square has always been a center for popular entertainment, even before it was home to musicals about misunderstood witches and lion royalty. Back in the early twentieth century, it was populated by places like Hubert's Flea Circus, a sort of catch-all variety show that opened in 1925. There you could see an actual flea circus, someone named Ajax the sword-swallower and, if you happened to be there during a fortuitous week in January 1939, Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander.

Alexander started his career with the Phillies in 1911 and won 28 games his rookie year (which is still modern-day rookie record). After stints with the Cubs and the Cardinals, he finished his career in Philadelphia with a 2.56 ERA and 373 wins over 20 seasons. He's also (as far as we know) the only baseball player to be both named after a president and portrayed by a future president in a movie. Ronald Reagan played him in the 1952 film "The Winning Team." 

Sounds like a pretty interesting guy, right? That's what one young fan thought when he was lucky enough to see him speak at Hubert's. In a letter to the New York Times looking back on the experience, Jay Jacobs says that the pitcher wrote him a special note to let him into what was usually an adults-only venue:

Kids my age were excluded from Hubert's, but a coeval and I wrote to the Hall of Fame pitcher, pleading with him to intercede on our behalf, so that we could see our hero (a historic personage whose retirement from the game antedated our interest in it) in the flesh.

We received a note from Alexander the next day...with instructions to present it at Hubert's turnstile. In a state of absolute euphoria, we did so, and were ushered into the dressing room, where Alexander set forth the conditions of our attendance at his performance. We were, he stipulated, to focus solely on his act and not allow ourselves to be distracted by other, questionable goings-on elsewhere on the premises -especially, we were cautioned, some dancing by a troupe of putative exotics that he deemed unfit for our eyes.

Apparently during the talk, Alexander predicted that "that the coming season's pennants would be won by the teams that won the most games," which seems like pretty solid baseball knowledge to us. 

Read More: Philadelphia PhilliesChicago CubsSt. Louis Cardinals