Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
Iron is used as a comparison for something or someone that is reliable and used a lot, due to iron’s many uses and how long iron based products tend to last. In baseball, there are several players inducted who have nicknames based off of iron. The most famous of which are, of course Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken. Gehrig was nicknamed the Iron Horse and Ripken was nicknamed Iron Man due to their consecutive games streaks. Another example is Joe McGinnity who was nicknamed Iron Man as well, but for pitching both ends of a doubleheader often in his career.
McGinnity’s nickname originally had nothing to do with baseball. While in the minors he would work at a foundry in the offseason. Once during an interview, he said that he was an “iron man”, and the name stuck. It was a fitting nickname for a man who, in a 10 year career, 9 times threw over 300 innings and set records for NL pitchers in complete games and innings pitched in a single season. In those 10 years, he threw a total of over 3400 innings, winning 246 games against only 141 losses. He struck out 1068 batters against 812 walks.
McGinnity was one of the fiercest competitors of the early game, hitting over 100 batters in his career and one time nearly being suspended for life for an on-field altercation. McGinnity spat tobacco juice in the face of an umpire and almost got jailed for assault. That toughness allowed him to pitch until he was 54 years old.
McGinnity was a very good pitcher, with an ERA- of 85. However, there are some things that prevent him from being higher on this list. One is, of course, only pitching 10 seasons. There’s no injury that ended his major league career, he just went to the minors for 14 years upon his release from the Giants. The other reason is that there were many aspects of McGinnity’s game that weren’t above average. He struck out fewer batters than the average pitcher did in his career, his batting average against and WHIP were both very close to league average. Even his ERA, while being 15% lower than league average, doesn’t compare well to other Hall of Famers in his career.
McGinnity was a very good pitcher, who threw a lot of innings and won quite a few games because of it. He wasn’t, however, one of the all-time greats. But, like a couple of other players from that era (like Orator Jim), his place in history is more about longevity and he certainly displayed some excellent longevity in his time.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 8/13/16 this speedy outfielder for the Pirates was known for great defense and base-running.