His parents wanted him to work and forget about sports. But Sal snuck out to play. He was a good basketball player too, even getting a scholarship in which he turned down. The six foot, two inch tall right hander, attended Niagara University where he played baseball becoming a pitcher.
At first he worked in the local Niagra chemical plants while pitching for company teams. After failing a few tryouts, Maglie eventually began his pitching career with a semi pro team out of Buffalo, New York. There he was noticed by former big leaguer Steve O'Neill who gave him a shot. Maglie once beat the legendary Satchel Page in a 1-0 duel in those years.
He had some bad years with the AA Buffalo Bisons & fell down to the Pony League then to Class A, where he finally had a good year, winning 20 games. In 1942 he failed a physical & was not admitted to the US military during World War II. With many of the players getting drafted, Maglie was signed by the New York Giants in 1942.
After a poor year, he resigned & went back to work in the chemical plant for two years. He returned to baseball in 1945 pitching with AAA Jersey City Giants.
He would get called up for the Giants later that year & was already 28 years old. Maglie debuted on August 9th, 1945 pitching middle relief in a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. On August 14th, he got his first start & threw a complete game 5-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds, at the Polo Grounds. In early September he tossed back to back shut outs, beating the Phillies & Chicago Cubs. He finished up at 5-4 with a 2.35 ERA.
In 1946 he jumped over to the Mexican League in order to make more money, something other players had done also. The MLB Commissioner at the time Happy Chandler; then put a ban on players who jumped leagues. Maglie did not get a chance to return to the big leagues for another four years, 1950- when the ban was lifted. By this time he was 33 years old.
But it was now, that the legend of Sal Maglie was to be born. He became known as "Sal the Barber," because he gave close shaves to the batters. Famous for throwing pitches up & in, under their chins. On the mound he would stare down, at his hitters with an angry look. He donned a five o’clock shadow, with a razor stubble beard, which added to his menacing look.
Quotes: Maglie said “When I’m pitching, the plate is mine”.
But off the mound he was a known as gentle, courteous, good-natured guy. One sports writer actually wrote" when Maglie spoke he sounded like a priest’s in a confessional ”.
Maglie was a key part to the success of the New York Giant teams of the early 1950s. He began the 1950 season in the bullpen and was 5-3 by late July, getting placed into the starting rotation.
From there on he was sensational, going on an incredible eleven game winning streak. In August he tossed five complete games going 6-0 with a save to his credit. On August 26th, he began a stretch were he threw four straight complete game shut outs.
On August 26th he shut out the Cardinals in St. Louis although he gave up eleven hits he allowed no one to score. In his next start at Pittsburgh, he allowed just five hits while walking two batters, shutting out the Pirates 3-0.
On September 4th, he defeated the Phillies 9-0, in the second game of a double header in Philadelphia. Then on September 9th, he beat Brooklyn's Preacher Rowe in a 2-0 win at the Polo Grounds.
He finished the year at 18-4 (8th most wins in the league) while leading the league in ERA (2.71) winning % (.818%) and shutouts (5). He struck out 96 batters in 206 innings coming in tenth place for the overall MVP Award. He was also second in the league with ten hit batters.
In the Giants miracle run of 1951, Maglie was the ace of the staff & arguably the best pitcher in the league. That year the rival Brooklyn Dodgers had two twenty game winners; Preacher Roe (22 wins) & Don Newcombe (20 wins).
But the Giants had two twenty game winners of their own; Maglie & Larry Jansen, who both won 23 games. Maglie (20-6) & Jansen tied for the league lead in wins.
On May 4th, he pitched a one hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates, at the start of an eight game winning streak. In that stretch, he also tossed a two hit shut out against the Phillies in Philadelphia. Maglie would add a three hitter along the way & find himself at 15-4 by the end of July.
The Giants were ten games back at the start of August & were thought to be dead in the pennant race. They would go on an incredible come back stretch to tie the Dodgers by the last day of the season. From August 12th to the end of the season he was 8-1 with six complete game wins. In September alone, he beat the Brooklyn Dodgers three times. On September 9th, he beat Ralph Branca in a 2-1 win at Ebbetts Field.
On October 3rd he was the starting pitcher in one of the most famous games in baseball history. Maglie, shut out the Dodgers in the third & final game of the 1951 NL Playoff series forced by the tied record. He held down the Dodgers into the 8th inning, before surrendering four runs, leaving down 4-1. It seemed he would be the losing pitcher, until Bobby Thompson connected for the most famous walk off HR in history, sending the Giants to the World Series.
He finished up second in both ERA (2.93) & complete games (22). He struck out 146 batters (third in the league) pitched 298 innings & recorded four saves.
He made the All Star team and came in fourth in the MVP voting. (This was before the Cy Young Award was given to pitchers). At the plate he hit his first career HR, driving in five runs and batting .152.
Post Season: In the 1951 World Series, Maglie took the loss in Game#4 of the World Series, losing at the Polo Gounds
to AL New York's Allie Reynolds. Reynolds had an extra days rest because of the previous day’s rain out. Sal gave up four runs on six hits in five innings pitched, including a two run HR to Joe DiMaggio.
In 1952 he was already 35 years old & just in his third full season pitching in the majors. He had a great start to the season, beating the Philadelphia Phillies at the Polo Grounds on Opening Day, striking out eight batters.
In his second start he pitched a two hit shutout at Ebbets Field striking out eight Dodgers. Through his first nine starts he won every game, allowing more than two earned runs in only one of those games.
He was 11-2 with a 3.06 ERA entering July & made another All-Star team. He was undefeated in August as well going 3-0 with another shut out on August 19th, coming against the Chicago Cubs. He finished the year at 18-8 (second most wins in the NL) with a 2.92 ERA (tenth in the NL) pitching in 216 innings striking out 112 batters. Although he had such a great year, he was starting to have back issues, that would limit his effectiveness.
In 1953 his numbers began to decline as his age caught up to him slowly. He pitched in 27 games with 145 innings, eight less starts & 50 less innings than the previous year. His record slipped below .500 for the first time, with an 8-9 record.
He rebounded with 14 wins in the Giants 1954 Championship season, becoming the number three man on a staff. That group included; twenty game winner Johnny Antonelli & 17 game winner Ruben Gomez.
Maglie began the season with an Opening Day 4-3 win against Brooklyn at the Polo Grounds. He started out strong at 4-0 with a five hit shutout pitched on April 25th, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Phillies. In the month of July, he went 4-1 with a pair of saves added in relief efforts.
Over the last two months of the year, he pitched well but had seven no decisions going 3-1 in that time. On the season he went 14-6 (9th most wins in the NL) with two saves, striking out 117 batters (8th in the NL) in 218 innings pitched, posting a 2.96 ERA (8th in the NL).
For his efforts he even received votes for the MVP Award, coming in 22nd in that voting.
Post Season: In 1954 “The Barber” opened up the World Series against the Cleveland Indians, in Game #1 at the Polo Grounds. Just like the 1951 Series, Maglie had a troubled first inning.
Cleveland lead-off batter; Al Smith singled, then the 1954 AL batting champ Bobby Avila singled as well. Maglie was then able to retire Larry Doby on a grounder and Al Rosen on a pop-up. Then Vic Wertz came to the plate & doubled to deep right-center and the Indians had a 2-0 lead. This was enough for Leo Durocher to get Don Liddle to warm up in the bull pen.
Maglie reared back to get the next out. The Giants eventually tied the game & Maglie then cruised all the way to the eighth inning. He was relieved going 7.2 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, with two walks & two strike outs.
Don Liddle did relieve Maglie & gave up a long fly ball off the bat of Vic Wertz. It resulted in the famous Willie Mays over the shoulder catch, perhaps the most famous defensive play in baseball history. The Giants went on to win it in the bottom of the 10th on a three-run walk off pinch hit HR by Dusty Rhodes. Maglie got no decision & did not get another appearance in the four game Series sweep.
The following season, Maglie struggled suffering from back issues, in 23 games he was 9-5 with a 3.75 ERA into July when he was placed on waivers. He was picked up by the Cleveland Indians where he finished the year going 0-2.
In 1956 he began the year in Cleveland but after two games, he was purchased by his long time rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers for $1000. He made a great comeback and pitched great down the pennant stretch.
On June 4th he pitched a three hit shutout at Milwaukee to defeat the Braves. On August 14th he pitched seven scoreless innings against his old Giants team mates earning no decision in Brooklyn's 3-1 loss.
On September 1st he beat them at the Polo Grounds, allowing just one run in 5.1 innings pitched. On September 25th, Maglie had his best game of all, throwing a no hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies at Ebbetts Field.
Years later he said "The last pitch I threw was a fastball, low and outside. Marty Blaylock was the batter and he hit the pitch on the ground to the second baseman, Jim Gilliam. Gilliam scooped it up and threw him out to end the game." The game would put Brooklyn just 1/2 game behind the Milwaukee Braves in the battle for first place. Four days later Maglie beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first game of a double header securing the Dodgers spot in first place, clinching at least an NL tie.
On the year he was 13-5, with the league's third best winning % (.733%) He had nine complete games & 2.87 ERA (4th best in the NL) helping the Boys of Summer win another the Pennant.
On the mound he also posted a perfect .1000 fielding %. He finished second to team mate Don Newcombe in the first balloting for the Cy Young Award, and was also second to Newcombe in MVP voting.
Post Season: Maglie opened the 1956 World Series against the AL New York club with a 6-3 complete game win at Ebbets Field, striking out ten batters. He was the opposing pitcher in Game #5 when Don Larsen threw his famous perfect game. Maglie was also good on that day, allowing just two runs on five hits, but obviously took the loss. Maglie went 1-1 in that Series allowing five runs in 18 innings, pitching two complete games and striking out 15.
In 1956 he appeared on the TV show what's my line, where blind folded celebrities try to guess who a person is by questioning.
He went 8-6 the next season, ending up on the A.L New York club at the end of the season. He became one of very few players to have played on all three New York clubs before the Giants & Dodgers left for California. He began 1958 in the A.L. & then finished his career with the St. Louis Cardinals going 3-7 for the entire 1958 season.
In his ten year career, Maglie was 119-62 with 14 saves, throwing 25 shut outs (173rd all time) with 93 complete games, posting a 3.15 ERA (228th all time). He compiled a .657 winning %, 19th all time & was the ninth best in history when he retired. Maglie struck out 862 batters with 562 walks in 1723 innings.
Although he was known as the Barber, and did come in the top ten in his league, four times in hit by pitches, he hit just 44 batters in his entire career.
Retirement: After his playing days Sal served two terms as pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox (1960-1962/ 1966-1967). In 1969 he was also the pitching coach for the Seattle Pilots, in their only year of existence.
Many pitchers gave Maglie credit as as he became a well respected pitching coach. Hall of Fame Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale & 1967 Red Sox ace Jim Lonborg both credited Maglie with teaching them how to master pitching inside to hitters. Red Sox pitcher (future Met coach) Bill Monbouquette also gave credit to Maglie when he struck out 17 batters in a 1961 game.
During the Red Sox Impossible Dream season of their 1967 pennant, Maglie was the teams pitching coach but there were issues. He had signed a two year deal & when new manager Dick Williams came along, they didn't get along. Williams wanted his own guy.
Also that year, Maglie's wife Kay died of cancer & ate 49 he was a widower with two sons. After the Sox won the pennant, they lost the World Series in seven games to the Boston Red Sox & Maglie was fired the next day. He was outraged at Williams & publicly said so. He the got the job in Seattle with Pilots.
After baseball he worked as a wholesale liquor salesman & a coordinator for the Niagra Falls Convention Bureau.
Maglie’s reputation made him a popular New York favorite & he appeared at many Mets old timers games. Family: Maglie married to his first wife Kay back in 1941. While with the Giants, they lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York. They adopted two boys, one made a career in the Air Force. Sadly the other son, had issues with drugs & alcohol after his mothers death. He passed away in 1982.
Sal Maglie suffered a brain aneurysm in 1981 but did recover. After the death of his son, his health deteriorated & he was placed in a Nursing Home in 1987. He passed away in Niagara Falls, New York in 1992 at age 75.
Honors: Maglie is inducted in The Italian American Sports Hall of Fame & has a baseball stadium named after him, in his home town of Niagara Falls. A highly acclaimed book about his life in & out of baseball was written by Judith Testa in 2007.