McGinnity did not get to the majors until he was 28, then lasted only 10 seasons, but earned his sobriquet, Iron Man, by his frequent appearances. He often pitched both halves of doubleheaders. He had had two inauspicious years in the minors, and was pitching semi-pro ball when he developed an underhand delivery and change of pace which, in one season, vaulted him to the majors. As a rookie with the 1899 Baltimore Orioles, he led the National League with 28 victories.
The NL cut back from 12 teams to eight in 1900, dropping Baltimore, and McGinnity was awarded to Brooklyn. He again topped the NL in wins, going 29-9, and earned the Iron Man nickname by winning five games in six days. When John McGraw, for whom had he pitched in 1899, beckoned, McGinnity jumped to the new American League. In July 1902, they both went back to the NL, with McGraw taking the Giants’ helm.
From 1902 through 1908, McGinnity and Christy Mathewson formed a dynamic duo, with one or the other topping the league in victories every year. McGinnity led with 31 in 1903, when he pitched 434 innings – the most in a season by any 20th century pitcher. Three times that August he threw complete games victories in both ends of doubleheaders. His 35 wins led the NL in 1904, when his .814 winning percentage (35-8) and 1.61 ERA were also the NL best. He won 27 in 1906 to again lead the circuit.
McGinnity was a rough, tough player who, when he ran a saloon, never had to hire a bouncer. He welcomed diminutive umpire Tom Connolly into the majors by spitting in the future Hall of Famer’s face. His durability was remarkable. With the exception of 1902, he led his league in games pitched every year from 1900 to 1907, and in innings from 1899 to 1904. He started and went the route more times than any AL pitcher in 1901, and any NL pitcher in 1904. Decades before there were bullpen specialists, he often led or tied for the lead in relief wins, relief losses, and saves. In his two World Series starts, in 1905, he did not allow an earned run.
McGinnity left the majors after the 1908 season to pitch for and manage Newark (Eastern League). He went on for years in the minors, a steady winner, still throwing underhand and mixing in a spitball. He had racked up 171 minor league wins when he last took the mound at age 54. He returned to the Dodgers for a time as a coach. In 1946 he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.