McCracken played football for four years under legendary coach George Woodruff. In 1897, McCracken was a guard on the Pennsylvania football team that won 15 games without a defeat. This was the second-highest scoring team in Penn football history, totaling 443 points and giving up just 20. The Quakers and Wisconsin were considered to be the nation's top two teams that season. Penn blanked 12 of its 15 opponents, including Lehigh, Virginia, Penn State, Brown and Dartmouth, by a combined score of 178-0.
In 1898, McCracken was at guard again for a Penn squad that won 10 straight games. The Quakers also added victories over Carlisle and Cornell to finish the season at 12-1. McCracken's 1899 team finished the season at 8-3-2 overall, defeating the likes of Franklin and Marshall, 48-0, and Penn State, 47-0. McCracken was named a Walter Camp All-American at guard as Penn defeated Michigan and Virginia also that season.
In 1900, as a fullback, McCracken played an important part in Penn's 12 victories, with Harvard being the only team to defeat the Red and Blue that year, 17-5, on November 3, 1900. McCracken finished his football career with an overall record of 47-5-2.
According to Dr. Wharton, one of the greatest players of the past, and a former assistant coach of the Quakers, "McCracken came from Kansas a big rawboned westerner. He was 6-2, weighed 190 pounds and was one of the finest physical specimens at the University of Pennsylvania at the time. He was agile, active and quick, and according to the experts at the time, was one of the remarkable football players of that era. He was considered by the experts as being on par with the great T. Truxton Hare, C'01" (who is a member of the Penn Athletic Hall of Fame).
McCracken's success in the fall on the gridiron went hand-in-hand with the success he found in the spring on the throwing fields.
As the University of Pennsylvania's only world record holder in the throws, McCracken was not to be taken lightly out on the field. He set the world record in the hammer throw as a sophomore in 1898 with a toss of 153 feet, eight inches. He also earned the 1898 IC4A title in the hammer throw and broke the old record in that event with a throw of 149 feet, five inches. During that same meet, McCracken broke another IC4A mark and recorded another IC4A Championship in the shot put with a record-throw of 43 feet, eight and one-half inches. McCracken was named an All-American for his accomplishments.
And he wasn't through yet. As a junior in 1899, McCracken won both the shot put and hammer throw championships at the IC4As, was named an All-American in both events and served as the captain of the University of Pennsylvania track team.
In 1900, McCracken took his show on the road and competed at the Olympic Games for the United States in Paris. There, he won a silver medal in the shot put and followed that with a bronze medal in the hammer throw, which etched his name into Olympic history forever.
Not too many other Penn athletes boast credentials comparable to Josiah McCracken's. As a two-sport athlete, world record holder, Olympian and All-American, it is evident that this man had something to take pride and joy in. When he graduated in June of 1901, he was reportedly one of the most popular persons ever to graduate. As he received his diploma, "the whole audience rose to their feet and loudly applauded, an ovation never before given in the history of the University." - taken from Mission to Shanghai.