March 20 – Happy Birthday Joe McGinnity
He was the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to win 20 games in a season. He was also the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to lose 20 games in a season. His name was Joe McGinnity. He had worked in an iron foundry until he was 27-years-old and then started pitching in the minor leagues in 1898. Known as “The Iron Man” because of his pre-baseball career, McGinnity made his big league debut with the 1899 Baltimore Orioles, a team that was then a member of the National League and managed by John McGraw. Joe led the league with 28 wins in his rookie season, which also happened to be the last season the Orioles were part of the NL. In 1900, the ownership of that team merged their club with the Brooklyn franchise and McGinnity pitched the 1900 season for the Brooklyn Superbas. He again won 28 games and again led the NL in wins but his heart was evidently in Baltimore. In 1901, the new American League had formed and awarded a franchise to Baltimore. That team adopted the Orioles name and John McGraw was named their Manager. McGinnity jumped from Brooklyn to Baltimore and went 26-20 for the new AL franchise. The following year, the Orioles had a horrible season, finishing with a record of 50-88. McGinnity did OK himself, going 13-10, but the Orioles had the worst attendance of the eight teams in the league. That contributed to the League decision to move the team to New York in 1903 where they would play first as the Highlanders and eventually, the Yankees.
When Clark Griffith was named manager of the Highlanders, McGraw was out of a job. The Orioles released McGinnity and he signed with the New York Giants, finishing 8-8 in 1902. The following season, McGraw was hired as Manager of the Giants, where he was reunited with McGinnity and a young Giant pitcher named Christy Matthewson. Those three M’s would help turn the Giants into one of the most successful franchises in baseball. McGinnity and Matthewson both won 30 games in 1903 and McGraw’s team went from last place in the NL to second. In 1904, the pitching duo again each won 30 and the Giants captured the NL Pennant. McGinnity pitched in the Polo Grounds until 1908 and finished his big league career with a lifetime record of 246-142. He didn’t stop pitching though. He became a Minor Leaguer again and won 207 more games before he retired for good at the age of 54, in 1925. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1946.
Iron Man McGinnity shares his March 20th birthday with this one-time Yankee reliever.