The State of Sports!

Get New Bio Updates
on Facebook!

All you need to know about New Jersey sports history.

Baseball Basketball Boxing & Wrestling Football Hockey Golf Soccer Tennis Track & Field

Auto Racing Horse Racing Olympic Sports Women's Sports Miscellaneous Sports


Jim McCormick

Sport: Baseball

Born: November 3, 1856

Died: March 10, 1918

Town: Paterson

James McCormick Jr. was born November 3, 1856 in Thornliebank, Renfrewshire, Scotland to Irish immigrants James and Rosa McCormick. The family planned to move to the United States for better opportunities, but waited until the Civil War had concluded. The McCormicks settled in the booming industrial city of Paterson, where Jim Sr. found steady work as a shoemaker. Young Jim (called Jimsy by his family) quit school and went to work in one of Paterson’s textile mills at 13.

Jim grew into a strapping young man with bright red hair and piercing blue eyes. He made fast friends with other baseball-playing boys in the neighborhood. These included future big-leaguer stars Blondie Purcell, Eddie Nolan and Mike “King” Kelly, as well as John “Kick” Kelly (no relation), a future big-league manager and umpire. Employing the underhand style of the day, Jim could whip the ball across the plate at a high enough speed to make the ball dance past—and most notably under—hitters’ bats. He and catcher Mike Kelly played for the minor-league Columbus Buckeyes in 1877 and then joined Nolan on the Indianapolis Blues in 1878. Jim was a “change” pitcher at this point. He played the field most days and took the mound when a team’s primary starter was injured or overworked.

In 1879, the Blues moved to Cleveland and Jim became their primary starter. He won 20 games but also lost a league-high 40. Statistically, however, he was one of the top pitchers in the National League. In 1880, Jim was named captain of the Blues. Surrounded by better hitters and fielders, he turned his record around and won 45 games, which led the league. In 1881, Jim went 26–30 but in 1883 led the NL again with 36 victories. By this time, the mound had been moved from 45 feet to 50 feet, and pitchers were allowed to release the ball above the waist (but below the shoulder). Jim went 28–12 in 1883 and led the league with a 1.18 ERA.

Jim began the 1884 season with the Blues and was 19–22 in early August when he petitioned club management to let him jump to the newly formed (and short-lived) Union Association. The Blues refused, but traded him to the Cincinnati Unions, for whom he went 21–7 with a league-best 1.54 ERA. Jim’s catcher was his old Paterson pal, Kick Kelly. The “Outlaw Reds” as they were known went 69–36 but finished second to the 94-win St. Louis Maroons. The Union Association went out of business that winter and Jim was snapped up by the Providence Grays of the American Association. Unfortunately, he saw little action as the backup to the immortal Hoss Radbourn, making him expendable in a trade with the NL Chicago White Stockings. There he teamed with John Clarkson to push Chicago past the Giants to the pennant. Clarkson went 53–16 and Jim was 20–4.

Jim turned in another great year in 1885, winning 31 games for the White Stockings, who repeated as NL pennant winners. However, his drinking had become a problem and the White Stockings released him over the winter in a stunning housecleaning. Jim eventually signed with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys for 1886, but had let his body go during the off-season as he concentrated on operating the bar he owned back in Paterson. He rushed himself into shape, hurt his arm, and went 13–23 with a bloated 4.30 ERA. He was out of baseball in 1887 and retired altogether from the game in 1888 when his wife died after contracting tuberculosis.

Fortunately for Jim and his two motherless children, his saloon was popular and he had picked up enough financial knowhow as a player to run the business successfully for more than 25 years. He sold the bar after being diagnosed with a kidney disease in 1916 and died two years later. Jim son—also named Jim—was a member of the Paterson Police Department along with his old pitching buddy, Eddie Nolan.

Jim’s final record as a big-leaguer was 265–214 with a 2.43 ERA in over 4,200 innings pitched. He struck out 1,704 batters and hurled 33 shutouts. He won 30 or more games four times and was, even by modern metrics, one of the most impactful pitchers in baseball history. Of all the 19th century pitchers left on the outside looking into the Hall of Fame, Jim McCormick stands out as the very best.


Player Profiles

Pro Teams

College Teams

NJ Baseball History

Great Moments

It Happened in Jersey



• Who We Are
• Email Us
• Don't Know Spit?



They still play sports outside NJ. Check out 300 more athlete bios at

All images on this site are from the collection of the authors. They are used for educational and informational purposes and are subject to standard copyright laws.

Copyright © 2021 Upper Case Editorial Services, LLC.