This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
“For The Love Of The Game” is a saying you often hear about players who continue on with their careers long after they’ve achieved their personal best. They’re players who can’t quite shake that craving for competition. For a player born on this day in 1871, you’d believe this saying came about when he was toiling through the minor leagues seventeen years after the final season of a great career at the major league level.
Though minor league statistics throughout history can be hard to verify in some respects, there is a possibility that Hall of Fame pitcher Joe McGinnity has the greatest number of victories at the minor league level as any other pitcher in the Hall of Fame. More impressive, most of these victories came after his big league stint.
Joe McGinnity, born on March 20th, 1871 in Cornwall Township, Illinois, played seven seasons at the minor league level(though numbers for only one season is available) before joining the Baltimore Orioles and leading the league with 28 wins in 1899. Over the course of a ten year career(spent mostly with the New York Giants), McGinnity led the league in victories five times, led the league in innings four times, and led the league in games started six times. His 246 career wins ranks him 46th all-time, and his career 2.66 ERA ranks him 66th all-time, 103 years after his last MLB season.
McGinnity holds the distinction of pitching both ends of a doubleheader several times, to solidify the nickname “Iron Man”, earned reportedly when he mentioned that he was an iron man by trade.
In an August 1955 issue of Baseball Digest, Pat Harmon wrote about Joe McGinnity’s ‘Iron Man’ ability of pitching both ends of a doubleheader! Click here to check it out!
At the age of 37, McGinnity was the fourth oldest player in the big leagues and it was his last season at the highest level. It was just the beginning of his second career in the minor leagues, however. He played 14 seasons(over 18 years) with nine different teams, and earned 207 victories in the minors between 1909 and 1925. He won 20 or more games 7 times, including 29 and 30 wins in his first two seasons with the Newark Indians of the Eastern League. In total, McGinnity won more than 450 games(the exact number depends on the source) in his professional career. He passed away in 1929 of bladder cancer, just four years after his last season in the minor leagues.
Also Born Today:
George Altman(b.1933) spent nine seasons in the big leagues, primarily as a member of the Chicago Cubs. He had a career year in 1961 when he knocked in more runs than teammates Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, and Billy Williams. Though he hit just 101 home runs in his MLB career, he slugged 205 between 1968-1975 while playing ball in Japan.
Stan Spence(1915-1983) played nine seasons, most notably as a member of the Washington Senators. Despite missing the 1945 season to service in World War II, Spence averaged 14 homers and 84 RBI on his career. He was a four time All-Star, and also had two stints with the Boston Red Sox.