The name fit well because on the mound, the five foot eleven right hander's durability, was also that of an iron man. He claimed his arm never hurt him and that he could throw the ball all day long. His style of pitching was a submarine style curve ball that he called "old Sal" & said was easy on his arm.
McGinnity began pitching with the Decatur Coal Mining Company in the late 1880's in Decatur Georgia. His family moved West toward Montana but along the way, his Aunt struck gold in a coal mine. The family settled in Oklahoma, where McGinnity met his soon to be wife. There he popularized the sport with his pitching as well. From there he was discovered & pitched six minor league seasons. While pitching at Peoria, he was dicovered by the owner of the Brooklyn Grooms who also owned the Baltimore Orioles team of the day.
The next year he went to Brooklyn, pitching for the newly named; Superbas. Once again he led the league in wins with 28. He also led the NL in winning percentage (.778) and innings pitched with an incredible 343. That year he led Brooklyn to a title winning the Chronicle Telegraph Cup. He also set a modern day record with 40 hit batsmen.
The following season he jumped over the newly formed American League, taking less money than the Brooklyn team had offered him. In the new league he had a chance to reunite with his old teammate John McGraw. But McGraws teams were always involved in fights, in the dirty early twentieth century days of baseball. In one incident McGinnity spat on an umpire & was arrested, receiving a long suspension, that was shortened when he apologized.
The next year the Orioles were sold due to financial debts. The new owners also owned team in the NL; The New York Guants & Cincinnati Reds. They cut the players from the Orioles teams & assigned them to the NL teams. McGinnity joined John McGraw, Roger Bresnahan , Cy Cemour & Dan McGann on the Giants, who were to become one of the elite teams in the NL for years to come.
In 1903 he won 31 (31-20) ames setting NL records in starts (48) & innings pitched (434). His Iron Man status was confirmed as he started both ends of double headers throughout the season. He once did this three times in a month& in August of '03 pitched in over 100 innings. Along with his team mate Christy Mathewson, they accounted for three quarters of the teams victories. At the end of the season he joined several team mates accusing owner John T. Brush on holding out on payouts to the players.
Quotes: "Nothing can hurt my arm. I can throw curves like that all day. Last year, I pitched a 21-inning game for Peoria that took four hours. I never hurt my arm." - Joe McGinnity.
In the 1904 season he came back to go 35-8 leading the league in wins, winning percent (.814%) a career best ERA (1.61) innings pitched (408) starts (51) & saves (5). As the Giants were fighting the Chicago Cubs in a pennant race, he pitched both ends of double headers winning both games three times over a months' time. That year the Giants topped the NL, but did not compete in a World Series because John McGraw refused to acknowledge the American League & their champion Boston Pilgrims.
In 1905 he was second to Christy Mathewson (who won 31 games) on the Giants staff winning 21 games (21-15), posting a 2.87 ERA, and pitching 320 innings. He would again lead the league in starts (46) and do so for five straight seasons total, six times overall.
Post Season: 1905 would be his only World Series appearance, although he got overshadowed by Christy Mathewson’s three shutout performances. McGinnity took the loss to the Philadelphia A's in Game #2, getting shut out 3-0 by Chief Bender. It was the only game the Giants would lose in that series.
He came back in Game #4 to throw a five hit shutout of his own, sandwiched between two Mathewson shut out performances. In that game McGinnity allowed just five hits in beating Eddie Plank in a 1-0 duel.
McGinnity came back to lead the league in wins again 1906 with 27, going 27-12 with a 2.25 ERA. The next year he went 18-18 the only time in his career he didn’t post a winning record. 1908 was his last MLB season going 11-7 with a 2.27 ERA and leading the league in saves again with five.
In the famous Fred Merkle's boner game, against the rival Chicago Cubs in the heat of a late season pennant race; McGinnity was coaching at third base. Merkle got what appeared to be the game winning hit, as the Giants winning runs scored Merkle left the base paths not following through to the next base. This had happened before & alert Cubs infielder Johnny Evers called for the ball to touch the base & record Merkle as out.
There was soon chaos on the field, as the fans were exiting onto the field heading toward the centerfield gates, which was normal in those days. According to some accounts the actual ball was thrown into the stands by McGinnity as the Cubs players were trying to recover it. The game was replayed later on with the Cubs winning it & the 1908 pennant .
Iron Man finished his ten year career with 246 wins (49th all time) & 142 losses with a 2.66 ERA (66th all time). He pitched 3441 innings (77th all time) with 314 complete games (33rd all time) 32 shutouts 999th all time)& 24 saves. He posted 1068 strikeouts in 465 games pitched. He was a fine fielding pitcher, making 929 assists mostly due to his slow "old Sal" pitch. He had eight twenty win seasons, two thirty win seasons, & led the league in wins five times.
Retirement: He went back to the minor leagues and pitched until he was 54 years old winning a total of 207 games there. He passed away in Brooklyn, NY at his daughters house in 1929, he was 58 years old.
Honors: Joe McGinnity was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.