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Bill Kirby Jr.: A father and son playing catch, and a championship in the making

“We had that magical season,” Jack McGinley says about leading Wake Forest to the 1955 NCAA College World Series championship.


Call it something of a father-and-son rite of passage.

A father and his boy throwing a baseball to one another.

“He was always ready to field some balls” after work, Jack McGinley says about his father, John McGinley, who worked as a foreman in a paint factory in Blackwood, New Jersey, a little town about 12 miles east of Philadelphia, or “east of Philly” as Jack McGinley says.

It didn’t matter about a long day at the paint factory. John McGinley always had time for his son.

“He played football and was a catcher in baseball,” Jack McGinley says. “He was always encouraging me to play baseball.”

When John Ginley wasn’t at home, the young Jack McGinley would find himself tossing a baseball against the family home and fielding the return. Then it was another pitch toward the home and another after that one.

Jack McGinley was something of a natural when it came to baseball and took his pitching skills to Haddonfield High School, where he compiled an 18-5 record and helped the school win the South Jersey Group 3 state title.

“I had a couple of Pittsburgh Pirates scouts looking at me,” he says. “But my mom wanted me to go to college.”

Just one minor issue.

“It was cold up there,” McGinley says.

He enrolled at Wake Forest University and in 1955 found himself as a sophomore pitching for the Deacons in the NCAA College World Series at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.

He was just 3-2 in the regular season. But the College World Series would change his life.

McGinley would post a 5-0 record and lead Coach Taylor Sanford’s Deacons to a 7-6 victory over Western Michigan for the series title on June 16, 1955.

“We were down 6-3 when I came in in the fourth inning,” says McGinley, who two days before got the 10-7 victory over Western Michigan in the double-elimination series. “Let me tell you something. I had pitched with one day of rest in that 10-7 game. When we got in trouble, the starting pitcher just didn’t have it. My arm is a little stiff. I go to the bullpen and I throw six or seven pitches, and my arm is really sore and stiff. The catcher gets a call in the bullpen and says, ‘You’re in there.’”

McGinley was on the mound in the final game of the College World Series, a sophomore trying to save the Deacons.

“Coach came out and asked the catcher how I was doing,” McGinley says. “He said, ‘I don’t know, coach, he hasn’t got one to the plate yet.’”

By the top of the 9th inning, the Deacons had a one-run lead and McGinley was facing the final batter.

“He hit a ground ball to third base,” McGinley says, and a throw to first and Wake Forest had the title. Every one of the 2,100 fans in Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium was on their feet.

“I’m saying, ‘Throw the ball!’ McGinley recalls hollering to his third baseman. “‘Throw the ball!’”

The throw was accurate and on time.

“And we had a dog pile around the mound,” McGinley says, “and the rest was history.”

McGinley finished 8-2 for the 1955 season with a team-leading 2.52 earned run average over 90 and a third innings.

‘The people they became’

McGinley would graduate from Wake Forest in 1957 and earn his master’s in education administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1958. Eventually, McGinley found himself teaching and coaching at old Fayetteville High School. He was the boys’ junior varsity basketball coach and an assistant coach under Len Maness when Franklin “Rusty” Clark and the late Eddie Martin led the Bulldogs to the 1965 N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A championship and again in 1966 behind the play of Vann Williford and the late Chris Cammack.

McGinley was the first principal at Reid Ross High School, where he spent 17 years before moving to the Cumberland County Schools Central Office and later at Rockfish Elementary School for 10 years before retiring in 1996.

McGinley looks back on the 1955 College World Series with pride.

“We had that magical season that year,” he was saying Wednesday night in becoming the 92nd inductee into the Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame at Highland Country Club. But, McGinley will tell you, he’s equally proud of the teachers, coaches and athletes who he came to know in Cumberland County. Especially those athletes to include Wayne Byrd, Hooper Hall, Tommy Bradford, George Armstrong, the late Harold Ingle, Vann Williford, Jim Perkins, Don Perkins, Howard Smith, Cammack, Gary Wilson and the late Jerry Wilson.

“I think of how great the people they became,” McGinley says. “They all grew into men and they are very special. They are as important to me as winning the national title.”

His mind drifts back to his old Wake Forest baseball teammates, too.

“I don’t dwell on the fact we won the College World Series,” Jack McGinley says. “There are only about six or seven of us left. We’ve had two or three reunions. In 2015 they recognized us at Wake Forest and in 2000 had rings for us 45 years after winning it.”


McGinley will tell you he came to Fayetteville by happenstance.

“I was supposed to come to Fayetteville,” he says. “To meet Helen and have our daughter Maria and a son. And after Helen died in 2005, to later meet Susan, who is a wonderful Christian woman. I’ve had two beautiful ladies in my life take care of me. This is a great place to live and a great place to be.”

One more thing, McGinley will have you know.

“That’s my grandson,” McGinley was saying Wednesday night at the sports club banquet. “He’s going to be a much better baseball player than I ever thought to be.”

And it would come as no surprise to see them doing some pitching and catching together, much like John and Jack McGinley’s days of long ago.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

Column, Bill Kirby Jr., Fayetteville Sports Club, Hall of Fame, Jack McGinley, 1955 NCAA College World Series