Subject: ARCHIVE: January 5, 2004 ~Tug McGraw, former MBL Phillies pitcher, but arguably best remembered for his years with the Mets, later coining the phrase, "Ya Gotta Believe" which became their popular rallying cry, dies of cancer, at age 59. ...
[ Frank Edwin McGraw, Jr. ]
(August 30, 1944 – January 5, 2004)
Major League Baseball relief pitcher and the father of American singer and actor Tim McGraw. He is remembered for coining the phrase, "Ya Gotta Believe" which became a popular rallying cry for the New York Mets, and for recording the final out, via a strikeout of the Kansas City Royals' Willie Wilson, in the 1980 World Series, bringing the Philadelphia Phillies their first world championship. He was the last active major league player to have played under manager Casey Stengel.
Early life ...
McGraw was born in Martinez, California, to Frank Edwin "Big Mac" McGraw, Sr. and Mable McKenna. He got the nickname "Tug" from his mother because of the particularly aggressive way he breast-fed. Frank Senior was the great-grandson of Irish immigrants. McGraw graduated from St. Vincent Ferrer High School in Vallejo, California, in 1962. He enrolled in Solano Community College and signed with the New York Mets as an amateur free agent on June 12, 1964 upon graduation.
Marine Corps Reserve service ...
After one season with the Mets, McGraw reported to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on September 23, 1965, along with fellow New York Met pitcher Jim Bethke. He was trained as a rifleman on the M14 rifle and M60 machine gun. McGraw later reported to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune where he (in his own words) became a "trained killer."
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, Dennis McGraw, was staging anti-war protests at Solano Community College, where he was then a student. In a March 5, 1967 New York Times article McGraw 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 [the United States was] conducting the war."
New York Mets ...
...McGraw was used both as a starting pitcher and out of the bullpen in the minors; and, after just one season in the Mets' farm system, where he went 6–4 with a 1.64 earned run average in Rookie and class A ball, McGraw made the Mets out of Spring training 1965 without ever having played double or triple A ball. That same year, when asked if he preferred the new AstroTurf on the field at the Houston Astrodome to real grass, he said, "I don't know, I never smoked AstroTurf".
McGraw made the team as a reliever, and was 0–1 with a 3.12 ERA and one save when he made his first major league start on July 28 against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of a double header at Wrigley Field. He Lasted just two-thirds of an inning and gave up three earned runs on his way to a 9–0 loss (the Cubs blew the Mets out in the first game as well, 7–2). On August 22, in his second start, also in the second game of a double header, only this time against the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium, McGraw pitched a complete game to earn his first major league win. He won his next start as well, 5–2 over Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It marked the first time the Mets had ever beaten the future Hall of Famer. McGraw remained in the Mets' starting rotation for the remainder of the season, however, failed to log another win, going 2–6 as a starter, and 0–1 in relief.
The Mets used McGraw as a starter again in 1966, and he was 2–9 with a 5.52 ERA in that role. Though he also made four starts with the Mets in 1967, McGraw spent most of the season, and all of 1968 in the minor leagues with the Jacksonville Suns. By the time he returned to the Mets in 1969, manager Gil Hodges had a very capable young pitching rotation that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Gary Gentry and had no need for McGraw as a starter until Koosman went down with an injury in May. McGraw went 1–1 with a 5.23 ERA filling in for Koosman.
Koosman returned to the rotation at the end of the month and on May 28, after a five-game losing streak that saw the Mets fall into fourth place in the newly aligned National League East, Koosman and the San Diego Padres' Clay Kirby engaged in a pitchers' duel at Shea. After nine scoreless innings by Kirby and ten by Koosman, the game was turned over to the bullpens for extra innings. The game finally ended after eleven innings when Bud Harrelson hit a single to drive in Cleon Jones. McGraw pitched the eleventh inning to earn the win.
This began an 11-game winning streak that brought them into second place, seven games behind the Chicago Cubs. McGraw earned two saves during that stretch, and 12 for the season. His record as a reliever was 8–2 with a 1.47 ERA.
The Chicago Cubs had been in first place in the NL East for 156 days of the season, and they seemed likely to win the division when they came to New York City to open a crucial two game series with the Mets on September 8. The Mets won both games to close within a half game of the Cubs. The following day, the Mets swept a double header from the Montreal Expos. Coupled with a Cubs loss (who had slumped to a 9–17 record in their final 26 games), the Mets moved into first place for the first time ever during the 1969 season.
On September 15, the St. Louis Cardinals' Steve Carlton struck out a record 19 Mets batters in a losing effort, as the Mets defeated the Cards 4–3 at Busch Stadium on a pair of two-run home runs by Ron Swoboda. McGraw pitched the final three innings without giving up a run to earn the win in this game. On September 24, facing Carlton and the Cardinals, again — only this time at Shea Stadium, the New York Mets clinched the NL East as Donn Clendenon hit two home runs in a 6–0 Mets victory. The Mets won 39 of their last 50 games, and finished the season with 100 wins against 62 losses, eight games over the second place Cubs.
McGraw's first post-season experience (and only in 1969) came in game two of the 1969 National League Championship Series. After the Atlanta Braves lit up Koosman for six runs in 4 2⁄3 innings, Ron Taylor and McGraw held the Braves scoreless the remainder of the way to secure the Mets' 11–6 victory. He did not appear in the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.
While McGraw pitched sparingly in the 1969 post season, he remembered the year quite fondly, saying, "Everything changed for me in 1969, the year we turned out to be goddamned amazing, all right."
"Ya Gotta Believe!" ...
McGraw emerged as one of the top closers in the National League in the early 1970s, enjoying a career year in 1972. He was 3–3 with a 2.01 ERA and fifteen saves at the All-Star break to earn his first All-Star selection. McGraw pitched two innings, striking out four and giving up only one hit to earn the win in the NL's 4–3 come from behind victory. For the season, McGraw went 8–6 with a 1.70 ERA, giving up just 71 hits in 106 innings pitched, and setting a Mets record with 27 saves that lasted until 1984.
Whereas 1973 wasn't as good a year statistically for McGraw, he was valued for the leadership role he assumed for the league champions. The Mets had fallen into last place in the NL East, and had remained there through August 30. McGraw was the winning pitcher for the Mets on August 31 when the Mets emerged from last place with an extra innings victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. The win improved McGraw's record to 2–6 with a 5.05 ERA.
For the remainder of the season, McGraw went 3–0 with a 0.57 ERA and ten saves. The Mets, meanwhile, went 20–8 from that point forward to pull off the stunning division title. At a July 9 team meeting where Mets Board Chairman M. Donald Grant was trying to encourage the team, McGraw shouted the words, "Ya Gotta Believe" which became a popular rallying cry for the Mets. 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. They pulled into first place on September 21 with a 10–2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and clinched the division crown on the final day of the season. This marked the only time between 1970 and 1980 that the National League East wasn't won by either the Philadelphia Phillies or the Pirates.
McGraw continued his dominant pitching into the post-season when he pitched five innings over two games in the 1973 National League Championship Series against the Cincinnati Reds without giving up a run, and appeared in five of the seven games of the 1973 World Series against the Oakland Athletics. Though he blew the save in game two of the World Series, he pitched three shutout innings in extra innings to earn the win.
On December 3, 1974, the Mets traded McGraw and outfielders Don Hahn and Dave Schneck to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Mac Scarce, outfielder Del Unser and catcher John Stearns, whom the Phillies had drafted #2 overall in the 1973 Major League Baseball draft. McGraw had developed shoulder trouble during the 1974 season, and at the time of the trade, it appeared as if the Mets may have been unloading damaged goods. After the trade, he was diagnosed with a simple cyst and after successful surgery to remove it, recovered completely. McGraw left the Mets as the all-time leader in saves, games pitched, and games finished.
Philadelphia Phillies ...
...With the Phillies, he continued his role as a reliable relief pitcher, earning his second career All-Star nod in his first season in Philadelphia, though he did not appear in the game. After finishing second to the Pirates in 1975, McGraw's Phillies won their division crown the next three seasons. They were, however, unable to reach the World Series as they were swept by Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" in the 1976 National League Championship Series, and fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers the following two seasons.
The Phillies were battling back-and-forth for first place with the Montreal Expos in 1980 when the Expos came to Veterans Stadium for a crucial three game set on September 25. The Phillies won two of the three, with McGraw winning the second game, to pull a half game up on Montreal. By the time the Phillies went to Montreal for the final series of the season, the two teams were tied for first place.
The Phillies won the opener, 2–1. McGraw earned the save by striking out five of the six batters he faced. The following day, McGraw entered the game in the ninth inning, with the score tied at four. McGraw pitched three innings, striking out three and only giving up one hit (a tenth inning lead-off single by Jerry White. It was also one of just two balls to leave the infield once McGraw entered the game). After Mike Schmidt's eleventh-inning home run put the Phillies up 6–4, McGraw pitched a 1–2–3 eleventh inning, striking out Larry Parrish to end the game, and clinch the National League East for the Phillies for the fourth time since joining the club.
For the season, McGraw went 5–4 with a 1.46 ERA, 75 strikeouts and twenty saves. Phillies starter Steve Carlton won the National League Cy Young Award, and slugging third baseman Mike Schmidt was the unanimous NL MVP. McGraw received consideration in balloting for both awards as well, finishing fifth in Cy Young balloting, and sixteenth for league MVP.
McGraw pitched in all five games of the 1980 National League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. The Phillies won the first game 3–1, with McGraw earning the save. The Astros, however, came back in game two with an extra innings victory to send the series to Houston tied at a game apiece.
McGraw entered game three in the eighth inning with a runner on second, and one out. He managed to get out of the inning, and keep the Astros scoreless until the eleventh inning, when Joe Morgan led the inning off with a triple. Rafael Landestoy entered the game as a pinch runner for Morgan, and McGraw intentionally walked the next two batters to create a force at any base. The strategy didn't work, as the following batter, Denny Walling, hit a sacrifice fly to Greg Luzinski in left field scoring Landestoy.
The final two games of the series also went into extra innings. He earned a save in game four to even the series, however, blew the save in the fifth and deciding game, allowing it to go into extra innings. Dick Ruthven entered the game in the ninth and pitched two perfect innings. Meanwhile, the Phillies came back with a run in the tenth to proceed to the 1980 World Series against the Kansas City Royals.
McGraw appeared in four of the six games of the 1980 World Series, striking out ten batters in 7.2 innings. The Phillies swept the first two games in Philadelphia, with McGraw earning the save in game one. The Royals, however, came back to even the series after two games in Kansas City, with McGraw picking up the loss in game three.
McGraw entered game five in the seventh inning with the Phillies behind 3–2. He pitched three scoreless innings, while his team scored two ninth inning runs off Royals closer Dan Quisenberry to head back to Philadelphia with a 3–2 series lead. McGraw entered game six of the World Series in the eighth inning with no outs, and runners on first and second, and the Phillies up, 4–0. He allowed one inherited base runner to score, but managed to get through the inning relatively unscathed. After giving up a walk and two singles to load the bases in the ninth inning, he struck out Willie Wilson, clinching the Phillies' first World Series championship.
The next day, at a victory rally at John F. Kennedy Stadium, McGraw summed it all up for the fans after 97 years of futility for the Phillies franchise:
"All through baseball history, Philadelphia has had to take a back seat to New York City.
Well, New York City can take this world championship and stick it! 'CAUSE WE'RE NUMBER ONE!"
In later years, McGraw expressed remorse toward his comments toward New York.
He returned to Shea Stadium on numerous occasions following his retirement, citing his love for the Mets fans.
Final four seasons ...
McGraw went 2–4 with a 2.66 ERA and ten saves in the strike shortened 1981 season. The Phillies won the first half season crown, however, lost the 1981 National League Division Series to the Montreal Expos. On March 17, 1981, McGraw wore a dyed green uniform on St. Patrick's Day to a spring training game, though an umpire refused to let him play. McGraw called St. Patrick's Day his favorite holiday. Since 1989 the Phillies have had a tradition of playing in green on St. Patrick's Day.
In 1982. McGraw shifted into more of a set-up man role, with both Ron Reed and Ed Farmer earning more saves than he on the season. Prior to the start of the 1983 season, the Phillies acquired Al Holland from the San Francisco Giants to assume the closer role. Following the 1984 season, McGraw retired. McGraw, as a favor to longtime friend Roman Gabriel, would return to professional baseball for single starts during the 1989 and 1990 minor league seasons with the Class A Gastonia Rangers of the South Atlantic League.
Personal life ...
McGraw had a brief relationship in 1966 with Betty D'Agostino which resulted in one son, country music singer Tim McGraw. In his book "Ya Gotta Believe", Tug McGraw writes that he and D'Agostino only had sex once, and that she immediately broke off contact with him and left town afterward. ...
...McGraw did not acknowledge Tim as his son until Tim was 17 years old, but the two later developed a close relationship. In addition to Tim, McGraw had a son Mark and daughter Carie from his first wife Phyllis Kline and a son Matthew from his wife Diane Hovenkamp-Robertson and two stepsons, Christopher and Ian Hovenkamp.
On March 12, 2003, McGraw was working as an instructor for the Phillies during spring training when he was hospitalized with a brain tumor. When the surgery was performed to remove it, initial reports suggested that the surgery had been successful, that McGraw's chances for recovery were "excellent," and that he was supposed to live "a long time". ...
...However, the tumor was not totally excised by the surgery, and the malignancy returned in inoperable form. McGraw lived for over nine months after the initial surgery. In what would be his last public appearance, McGraw attended the closing ceremonies of Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia on September 28, 2003 where he recreated the final out of the Phillies' World Series triumph. McGraw died on January 5, 2004. The Mets played the 2004 season with the words "Ya Gotta Believe" embroidered on their left shoulders in McGraw's honor, and the Phillies wore a patch on their right shoulder featuring a shamrock in honor of McGraw and a banner reading "Pope" in honor of longtime Phillies executive Paul Owens, who had also died that winter. His son Tim's 2004 hit "Live Like You Were Dying" (written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman) was recorded in his father's honor, and featured the memorable clip of McGraw recording the final out of the 1980 World Series in the music video. The song reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard country music charts, and held that position for a total of seven weeks. It was named as the Number One country song of 2004 by Billboard.
McGraw was cremated after his death. ...
...Nearly five years later, his son Tim McGraw took a handful of his dad's ashes and spread them on the pitcher's mound at the Phillies current home park, Citizens Bank Park, in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series. The Phillies won the game, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 5–4, en route to the team's second World Series Championship.
The Tug McGraw Foundation was established in 2003 to enhance the quality of life of children and adults with brain tumors and in 2009 expanded programs to include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). TMF collaborates and partners with other organizations so that we can accelerate new treatments and cures to improve quality of life in areas of physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual impact of those debilitating conditions. The Foundation broke ground for its new headquarters in Yountville, California on November 13, 2010. The Foundation's work includes sponsoring a photography class at Camp Pendleton to help 15 Marines as part of the recovery process from battlefield wounds.