Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw Jr.
– January 5
) was a colorful Major League Baseball
and the father of country music
singer Tim McGraw
. He was born in Martinez, California
and gained sports stardom during the New York Mets World Series
victory in and is remembered for coining the motto "Ya Gotta Believe" during the New York Mets
' run for the 1973 World Series
. He is also renowned as the star reliever who pitched the final strike for the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
, which is their only World Series Championship in team history.
New York Mets
Tug graduated from St. Vincent's High School in Vallejo, CA in 1962. He enrolled in a local barber college where his poor scissor technique earned him the nickname "Tug." The New York Mets
signed him as an amateur free agent on June 12
, . The Mets initially tried him as a starting pitcher, but he only managed a 2-12 record in 16 starts over two years. However, one of those victories was against the legendary Sandy Koufax
and marked the first time the Mets had ever beaten the future Hall of Famer. After spending all of in the minor leagues with the Jacksonville Suns
, he became a full-time reliever in . Relying on a good screwball
, he racked up twelve saves
for the Miracle Mets
as they went on to win the World Series
, but he did not pitch in the Fall Classic.
He became one of the more successful closers in baseball during the early 1970s, placing second in the National League in saves in and . He recorded perhaps his finest overall season in , when he saved 27 games along with a microscopic 1.70 earned run average and giving up just 71 hits in 106 innings pitched. McGraw would also serve as the winning pitcher of the 1972 All-Star Game, one of two All-Star Games in which he played. During the 1973 season, he coined a popular rallying cry for the Mets, "Ya Gotta Believe!" He said the famous phrase when maybe only he believed the Mets could actually get to the World Series. But soon enough, hearing McGraw say it again and again, seeing him do his magic in the ninth, the Mets themselves came to believe in belief. That year, the Mets won the National League East (after trailing the Chicago Cubs by as many as 9 1/2 games) with only 82 wins, but managed to make the World Series, losing to the Oakland Athletics in seven games in a series many Mets fans felt the team should have won.
Following the 1973 World Series, McGraw continued to serve as the leader of the Mets bullpen, but soon encountered several injuries that would ultimately lead to his trade from New York.
On December 3
, , McGraw was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies
along with Don Hahn and Dave Schneck in exchange for catcher John Stearns
, pitcher Mac Scarce and outfielder Del Unser
. At the time of the trade, McGraw was the all-time Mets leader in saves, games pitched
, and games finished
, and it appeared as though the Mets were unloading damaged goods, as McGraw had developed shoulder trouble during the 1974 season. After the trade, he was diagnosed with a simple cyst and after successful surgery to remove it, recovered completely.
With the Phillies, he continued his role as a reliable relief pitcher. In , he finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting, compiling 20 saves and a 1.46 ERA and helping the Phillies win the NL East. In the playoffs, he appeared in all five games of the National League Championship Series, saving two of them. His finest efforts came in the World Series, striking out ten batters in 7 2/3 innings. He saved the final game by striking out Willie Wilson, clinching the Phillies' first, and so far only, World Series championship.
He spent the next four seasons as a set-up man rather than a closer, and retired after the season. He compiled 180 saves in his career, tied for eighth-best in Major League history at the time. His final major league game pitched was September 25, 1984.
- September 12, 1966: Ron Perranoski of the Los Angeles Dodgers fans the first six batters he faces and earns a 3–2 win over the Mets and McGraw. With the help of second baseman Ron Hunt, Mets rookie shortstop Bud Harrelson picks off Lou Johnson with the hidden ball trick in the 6th.
- October 18, 1973: The Mets win the 5th game 2–0 behind the 3-hit pitching of Jerry Koosman and McGraw. Cleon Jones doubles in a run in the second and Don Hahn's triple scores the other run.
- December 3, 1974: The Mets trade ace reliever and Shea Stadium favorite Tug McGraw to the Phillies in a 6-player swap. Hahn and Dave Schneck go to the Phils while New York receives OF Del Unser, C John Stearns, and P Mac Scarce.
- April 17, 1976: With the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field, Mike Schmidt leads a Phils' assault with a single, four consecutive home runs, and eight RBIs to overcome a 12–1 deficit after three innings and beat the Cubs in 10 innings, 18–16. The Chicago Cubs had tied in the 9th after the Phils took a 15–13 lead. Schmidt hits one homer off Mike Garman, two off Rick Reuschel, and the last, a 2-run homer, off Rick's brother, Paul Reuschel in the 10th. He's the first National Leaguer in modern times to hit four homers in a row. McGraw, who departs for a pinch hitter after Schmidt's last blow, is the winner, though two more pitchers are needed. The Phils use seven pitchers, including starter Steve Carlton.
- May 22, 1976: Reggie Smith slams three homers and drives in five runs to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 7–6 win over the Phillies. Smith's 3rd round tripper is a solo shot with two out in the 9th inning off McGraw to give Al Hrabosky the win.
- August 27, 1977: Dan Driessen and Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds hit back-to-back homers in the 9th inning to give the Reds a 5–4 win over the Phils. McGraw serves up both. Driessen's homer is a line drive that hits the center field wall at Riverfront Stadium and rebounds back over Jerry Martin's head all the way to the infield for an IPHR. Bench follows with one over the left field wall.
- August 15, 1978: The Phillies drop their 4th in a row, losing to the Dodgers, 5–2. The loss cuts the Phils' lead to two games as the Cubs beat the Reds and Tom Seaver in an afternoon contest. After Reggie Smith had driven in the game-winner the previous two nights, it is Steve Garvey's turn. His triple in the 8th off McGraw, with the bases loaded, breaks a 2–2 tie.
- August 11, 1979: The Pittsburgh Pirates' Ed Ott hits a grand slam off Phillie reliever McGraw in the 8th inning as the Bucs win 14–11. It is the 4th grand slam that McGraw has yielded this year, setting a new National League mark and tying him for this questionable honor with the Detroit Tigers's Ray Narleski (1959).
- August 27, 1980: Phillies Steve Carlton (20-7) becomes the first National League pitcher to win 20 games this season, combining with McGraw to beat the Dodgers, 4–3. Carlton will win a National League-high 24 games, while pitching 304 innings, the last MLB pitcher to throw more than 300 innings in a season.
- October 7, 1980: Phillies stars shine in the NLCS opener. Carlton and McGraw hold the Houston Astros to one run, and Greg Luzinski cracked a 2-run homer as the final score wa 3–1.
- October 10, 1981: A pinch homer by George Vukovich in the bottom of the 10th inning gives McGraw and the Phillies a 6–5 win over the Montreal Expos and ties up the 1981 National League Division Series 2-2.
Records and Honors
- Most saves in the LCS (lifetime) (5).
- Sets NL record and ties MLB record for most grand slams given up, season (4).
- He was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in and to the Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame in .
- On August 26, 2008, Tug McGraw was among the "Starting Nine" inducted into the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame (18 W. 33rd St. in New York City).
In the 1980s and 1990s, he was a reporter for Action News
, the American Broadcasting Company
affiliate found on channel 6 in Philadelphia
, and usually reported on sports or wacky stories.
McGraw could also throw right-handed and would often loosen up before games by playing right-handed catch with his teammates, leaving fans wondering who that right-hander wearing number 45 was.
In 1999 he played himself at a New York Mets reunion on "Everybody Loves Raymond".
Family and Marriage
Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw, Jr., was the son of Frank Edwin "Big Mac" McGraw, Sr., and Mable McKenna. Frank Senior was the great-grandson of Irish immigrants. Tug had a relationship with Betty d'Agostino, which resulted in a son, country music superstar Tim McGraw
. Tug married first to Phyllis Kline, with whom he had two children, and second to Diane Hovenkamp, with whom he had one child. Both marriages ended in divorce..
Pfc. Frank Edwin McGraw reported to boot camp at Parris Island on September 23, 1965 along with fellow New York Met pitcher Jim Bethke. He would be trained as a reserve rifleman and marksman – skilled in the use of the M-14 rifle and the M-60 machine gun. McGraw would get his real training at Camp LeJeune where he, in his own words, became a “trained killer”. Yet many of the skills which he acquired during his training translated very positively towards his career with the New York Mets and later the Philadelphia Phillies. The Marines taught McGraw discipline, concentration, and confidence; all things that translated seamlessly onto the pitcher’s mound.
But for McGraw, one of the most challenging aspects of being in the military was the internal conflict which it stirred within him. At the same time that he was finishing his Marine training, Tug McGraw’s brother, Hank McGraw was staging anti-war protests at Vallejo Junior College in California, which McGraw also attended. In a March 5, 1967 New York Times article McGraw even admitted that he and his brother would have arguments over the way the Vietnam War was being conducted. But even he, with his six-year reserve commitment to the United States Marine Corps looming large over him would admit that he was a “dove, when it came to the way we’re [the United States] was conducting the war”. Not even vigorous military training could break McGraw’s outspoken spirit.
Besides his pitching talents, Tug McGraw was a colorful character off the field. He once famously said: "Ninety percent [of my salary] I'll spend on good times, women, and Irish Whiskey. The other ten percent I'll probably waste." (George Best
is credited with an almost identical statement.) When asked in 1974 whether he preferred natural grass or artificial turf, he replied "I don't know, I never smoked AstroTurf
", a playful reference to smoking marijuana
. In the mid 1970s, McGraw was involved with the creation of the nationally syndicated comic strip "Scroogie." Tug McGraw was the last active major league player to have played under manager Casey Stengel
On March 12
, , McGraw was working as a spring training
instructor for the Phillies when he was hospitalized with a brain tumor
. When surgery was performed to remove it, it revealed the tumor was malignant and inoperable. Given three weeks to live by doctors, he managed to survive nine months. During this time, he attended the closing ceremonies of Veterans Stadium
, where he recreated the final out of the Phillies' World Series triumph.
At the time of his death, McGraw was ranked:
- 24th on the all-time major league list in games pitched (824)
- 22nd on the all-time major league list in games finished (541)
- 4th on the all-time Mets list in games saved (86)
- 4th on the all-time Mets list in games finished (228)
- 5th on the all-time Mets list in most games pitched (361)
- 7th on the all-time Mets list in least hits per nine innings (7.78)
- 10th on the all-time Mets list in most batters struck out per nine innings (7.02)
- 1st on the all-time Phillies list in games finished (313)
- 3rd on the all-time Phillies list in games pitched (500)
- 4th on the all-time Phillies list in saves (94)
- 8th on the all-time Phillies list in least hits per nine innings (7.89)
• Asked what he would do with the salary he was making as a pitcher, McGraw said:
"Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other ten percent I'll probably waste."
• Asked by a reporter whether he preferred real grass or artificial turf, he replied:
"I don't know - I never smoked AstroTurf!"
• His "Frozen Snowball" theory of pitching:
"Ten million years from now, when the sun burns out and the earth is just a frozen snowball hurling through space, nobody's going to care whether or not I got this guy out."
• Asked why he drove a 1954 Buick:
"I like it because it plays old music."
- during the 1973 and 1980 pennant races
"Ya gotta believe"