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Tug McGraw

Relief Pitcher
Born: August 30, 1944(1944-08-30)
Martinez, California
Died: January 5, 2004 (aged 59)
Brentwood, Tennessee
Batted: Right Threw: Left 
MLB debut
April 18, 1965 for the New York Mets
Last MLB appearance
September 25, 1984 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Career statistics
Games pitched     824
Win-Loss record     96–92
Earned run average     3.14
Strikeouts     1,109
Saves     180
Career highlights and awards

Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw Jr. (August 30, 1944 – January 5, 2004) was a Major League Baseball relief pitcher and the father of Country music singer Tim McGraw and actor/TV personality Mark McGraw. He is likely best remembered 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.


New York Mets


Early years

Tug 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.[1] Frank Senior was the great-grandson of Irish immigrants. Tug 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.

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.

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).[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.[3] He won his next start as well, 5–2 over Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers.[4] 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.


After one season with the Mets, Pfc. Frank Edwin McGraw reported to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on September 23, 1965 along with fellow New York Met pitcher Jim Bethke.[5] 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 Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune where he, in his own words, became a “trained killer”.[6] The discipline, concentration, confidence and many of the skills which he acquired during his training translated very positively towards his major league career.

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 now attending.[7] 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 we’re [the United States] conducting the war”.[8]

Amazin' Mets

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.[9]

This led to an eleven game winning streak that brought them back into second place, seven games back of the Chicago Cubs. McGraw earned two saves during that stretch, and twelve 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 seemed likely to win the division when they came to New York to open a crucial two game series with the Mets on September 8. The Mets won both games to move just a half game back of the Cubs. The following day, the Mets swept a double header from the Montreal Expos. Coupled with a Cubs loss (who'd 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 nineteen 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.[10] 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.[11] 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 innings, Ron Taylor and McGraw held the Braves scoreless the remainder of the way to secure the Mets' 11–6 victory.[12] He did not appear in the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

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.[13] 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 may have been the most valuable player on the team 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.[14] 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. Along the way, McGraw 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. They pulled into first place on September 21 with a 10–2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates,[15] and clinched the division crown on the final day of the season.

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.[16]

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.

Tug's catchphrase, "Ya Gotta Believe", was later used as the tagline for the 1994 Disney remake of the film Angels in the Outfield. Like the '73 Mets, the movie tells the story of an underdog baseball team who go on to win the pennant with a boost of self-confidence. However, the film also adds a connotation of spiritual faith to Tug's words.

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,[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]

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.

1980 World Champions

Tug McGraw was inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame in 1999.

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.[20] The Astros, however, came back in game two with an extra innings victory to send the series to Houston tied at a game apiece.[21]

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.[22]

The final two games of the series also went into extra innings. He earned a save in game four to even the series,[23] however, blew the save in the fifth and deciding game, allowing it to go into extra innings.[24] 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.[25] The Royals, however, came back to even the series after two games in Kansas City, with McGraw picking up the loss in game three.[26]

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.[27] 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 struch out Willie Wilson, clinching the Phillies' first World Series championship.[28]

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:[29]

All throughout baseball history, Philadelphia has had to take a back seat to New York City. Well, New York can take this championship...and stick it! 'CAUSE WE'RE NUMBER ONE!

However, in later years, McGraw would express remorse toward his comments toward New York, and following his retirement, he would often return to Shea Stadium on numerous occasions, 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. 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.

Career stats

19 96 92 .511 3.14 824 39 541 5 180 1514.2 1318 528 597 108 582 1109 63 22 7.8

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. 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)
Preceded by
Willie Stargell
Babe Ruth Award
Succeeded by
Ron Cey


Tug had a brief relationship in 1966 with Betty D'Agostino which resulted in one son, country music superstar Tim McGraw. In his book "Ya Gotta Believe," Tug McGraw writes that he and D'Agostino only had intercourse one time, and that she immediately broke off contact with him and left town afterward. Tug did not acknowledge Tim as his son until Tim was 17 years old, but the two later developed a close relationship.

Other work

In the 1980s and 1990s, he was a reporter for Action News on WPVI, the American Broadcasting Company affiliate found on channel 6 in Philadelphia, and usually reported on sports or wacky stories. He appeared as himself in a 1999 episode of Everybody Loves Raymond along with several other members of the 1969 Mets.[30]


In the mid 1970s, McGraw collaborated with artist Michael Witte on a nationally syndicated comic strip "Scroogie." Scroogie was a relief pitcher for the "Pets," whose teammates included "Tyrone" (a Reggie Jackson-like bopper with a tremendous ego), ace pitcher "Royce Rawls" (loosely based upon former Mets teammate, Tom Seaver), "Chico" at shortstop and "Homer," an intellectually challenged slugger who could send a ball into orbit. Their announcer, "Herb," wore loud sports coats reminiscent of former Mets announcer Lindsey Nelson, and the team was owned by Millicent Cashman. Actual major league teams and players were used in the comic strip during its two year run.

McGraw, Witte, David Fisher and Neil Offer produced two books, Scroogie (1976) and Hello there, ball! (1977).[31]


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 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. McGraw lost his battle with cancer 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. Son Tim's 2004 hit "Live Like You Were Dying" (written by Tim Nichols & 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.[32] The Phillies won the game, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 5–4, en route to the team's second World Series Championship.[33] 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).

Tug's Legacy Lives On

"Ya Gotta Believe"-- 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 Post-Traumatic 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.


Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other ten percent I'll probably waste.
—When asked what he would do with the salary he was making as a pitcher.
I don't know – I never smoked AstroTurf!
—When asked by a reporter whether he preferred real grass or artificial turf (but also attributed to Joe Namath).
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.
—McGraw's "Frozen Snowball" theory of pitching.
I like it because it plays old music.
—When asked why he drove a 1954 Buick.

See also


  1. ^ a b "The quotable Tug McGraw". Ken Mandel, 2004-01-06. 
  2. ^ "Chicago Cubs 9, New York Mets 0". 1965-07-28. 
  3. ^ "New York Mets 4, St. Louis Cardinals 2". 1965-08-22. 
  4. ^ "New York Mets 5, Los Angeles Dodgers 2". 1965-08-26. 
  5. ^ "McGraw & Bethke Learn the Basics of Military Life", New York Times (1857–current file), Nov 7 1965, Proquest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851–2004), pg. 201
  6. ^ Joseph Durso, "McGraw, the Marine, Turns to a Different Type of War", New York Times (1857–current file), March 5, 1967, Proquest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851–2004)
  7. ^ Durso & Mcgraw, Screwball
  8. ^ Durso, "McGraw, the Marine."
  9. ^ "New York Mets 1, San Diego Padres 0". 1969-05-28. 
  10. ^ "New York Mets 4, St. Louis Cardinals 3". 1969-09-15. 
  11. ^ "New York Mets 6, St. Louis Cardinals 0". 1969-09-24. 
  12. ^ "1969 National League Championship Series, Game Two". 1969-10-05. 
  13. ^ "1972 All-Star Game". 1972-07-25. 
  14. ^ "New York Mets 6, St. Louis Cardinals 4". 1973-08-31. 
  15. ^ "New York Mets 10, Pittsburgh Pirates 2". 1973-09-21. 
  16. ^ "1973 World Series, Game Two". 1973-10-14. 
  17. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies 2, Montreal Expos 1". 1980-09-26. 
  18. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies 2, Montreal Expos 1". 1980-10-03. 
  19. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies 6, Montreal Expos 4". 1980-10-04. 
  20. ^ "1980 National League Championship Series, Game One". 1980-10-07. 
  21. ^ "1980 National League Championship Series, Game Two". 1980-10-08. 
  22. ^ "1980 National League Championship Series, Game Three". 1980-10-10. 
  23. ^ "1980 National League Championship Series, Game Four". 1980-10-11. 
  24. ^ "1980 National League Championship Series, Game Five". 1980-10-12. 
  25. ^ "1980 World Series, Game One". 1980-10-14. 
  26. ^ "1980 World Series, Game Three". 1980-10-17. 
  27. ^ "1980 World Series, Game Five". 1980-10-19. 
  28. ^ "1980 World Series, Game Six". 1980-10-21. 
  29. ^ page on Tug McGraw
  30. ^ "Big Shots". Everybody Loves Raymond. 1999-03-01. 
  31. ^ "Tug McGraw, a jack of all trades". 2004-01-09. 
  32. ^ Tim McGraw spreads his father's ashes on World Series mound
  33. ^ "Tributes: Tug McGraw". 2004-01-05. 

External links

Tug McGraw at Find a Grave


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw, Jr. (August 30, 1944 - January 5, 2004) was a colorful Major League Baseball relief pitcher.


  • Ya gotta believe!
  • I dunno. I never smoked any Astroturf.
    • when asked about his preference of grass or astroturf
  • I have no trouble with the twelve inches between my elbow and palm. It's the seven inches between my ears that's bent.
  • Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women, and Irish Whiskey. The other ten percent I'll probably waste.
  • When the ship's in trouble, call in the Tug
  • I met her in a New York bar, we had a lot in common. We were both from California and we were both drunk. (on meeting his future wife)

External links

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