Obituary: John R. 'Jack' McGinley / Steelers officer, boxing promoter, beer wholesaler
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Although his was the only name other than Rooney listed as officeholders in the Steelers hierarchy, John R. "Jack" McGinley kept such a low profile that the players who traveled to Ireland for a preseason game in 1997 figured he had a much different position than the team's vice president.Post-Gazette
Jack McGinley in his youth.
Click photo for larger image.
Q and A with John R. (Jack) McGinley, March 6, 2006
"The players used to wonder who everybody on the plane was. For a while, they thought he was the groundskeeper," his oldest son, John R. McGinley Jr., recalled yesterday. "I don't think the word pretentious was in his vocabulary."
Mr. McGinley, of Point Breeze, whose family has owned part of the Steelers for more than 60 years, died of cancer Sunday evening during the Steelers-Raiders game. He was 86.
A Navy veteran of World War II whose ship was torpedoed during the invasion of Normandy, Mr. McGinley and his sister, Rita, owned 21 percent of the Steelers. His late wife, Ann Marie, was the sister of Steelers founder Arthur J. Rooney Sr.
In what was a lifelong family and business relationship, Mr. McGinley also partnered with the Rooneys in promoting professional boxing matches. He was also a partner in Wilson-McGinley Inc., the Strip District wholesaler for Miller and Heineken beers.
"He was a person of deep relationships and long-term friendships across a wide spectrum. He was a very unique man," his son said.
The McGinley family's investment in the Steelers dates to the 1940s, when the late Bert Bell briefly controlled ownership of the team. When Mr. Bell went on to become NFL commissioner, he sold the majority interest back to Art Rooney and 42 percent went to Barney McGinley, Jack's father.
"My dad had great trust in Barney. They were birds of a feather," said Arthur J. Rooney Jr., vice president of the Steelers. "The way the story goes, when Bert became commissioner, he wanted to make sure my dad owned the majority of the team."
The elder McGinley's four children, including Jack, each inherited 10.5 percent of the club. Upon the deaths of two of Jack's siblings, the Rooneys bought their shares, with Jack and Rita keeping theirs.
"Jack has been a terrific person. He has always supported me. He was there when we had three directors -- him, my father and I," said Dan Rooney, chairman of the Steelers.
When he was earning money for college, Dan Rooney worked for a time at the McGinley beer company.
Mr. McGinley's first job was as a sports writer for a defunct newspaper in Braddock. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1941, he did publicity for the Steelers and the Rooney-McGinley Boxing Club, which were in the same office.
"We had two rooms in the Fort Pitt Hotel, and they weren't very big. We had fight tickets in one drawer, and football tickets in the other," Mr. McGinley recalled in an interview earlier this year with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
His career was put on hold during World War II. Mr. McGinley was an engineering officer aboard LST (Landing Ship, Tank) 314 that ferried men and equipment onto invasion beaches. After taking part in amphibious landings in Sicily and Italy, Mr. McGinley's ship was sent to England to take part in D-Day.
His ship took fire during the landings of June 6, 1944, and returned to England. It picked up another shipment of supplies and soldiers, and, on its way back to France, was sunk by a German torpedo boat on June 9. He was in the waters of the English Channel for several hours before a British destroyer picked up survivors.
In a recent interview for the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, Mr. McGinley said fear took a back seat to duty.
"No, I wasn't afraid. That was our job," he said.
After the war, Mr. McGinley returned home to make boxing matches, sell tickets and do the publicity for the boxing club, including the 1951 heavyweight title fight between Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott. Prize fighters were frequent guests at the family home, and Mr. McGinley was fast friends with promoters such as Angelo and Chris Dundee.
"Jack was called the boy promoter," Art Rooney Jr. said. "He knew everybody, and everybody liked him. He was always a gentleman. I never heard him blow his cork once. I never heard him use a foul word, like my dad."
The boxing business lasted until the end of 1953.
Mr. McGinley's day-to-day operations with the Steelers ended as he went into the beer business, but he traveled with the Steelers.
He did not, however, make the trip to the Super Bowl in Detroit even though he maintained a strong rooting interest in the team.
"He never changed his rooting style," said his son. "The last Super Bowl meant a lot to him, but the ones from the '70s resonated more with him. He loved that team."
In addition to his son, Mr. McGinley is survived by five other children, Bernard, Thomas, Michael, Mary and James, along with 18 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Friends will be received from 6 to 8 p.m. today and from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc. Funeral Home, 4900 Centre Ave., Oakland. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Bede Church in Point Breeze.
First Published October 31, 2006 12:00 am