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Frank Edwin McGraw Jr.
- Bats Right, Throws Left
- Height 6' 0", Weight 185 lb.
- School Vallejo Junior College
- High School St. Vincent's High School
- Debut April 18, 1965
- Final Game September 25, 1984
- Born August 30, 1944 in Martinez, CA USA
- Died January 5, 2004 in Brentwood, TN USA
Tug McGraw was one of the more interesting players of all time. He pitched 22 years, one in the Western Canada League (semipro), 19 in the Major Leagues and four in the minors. A left-hander who threw a screwball, McGraw was a bit of screwball himself - a fan favorite in New York, Philadelphia and throughout the majors.
He came from Vallejo Junior College to pitch for Lethbridge in the 1963 Western Canada Baseball League and was signed by Roy Partee of the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 1964 when he called Partee to ask for a tryout. McGraw pitched 19 years with the Mets (1965-1974) and Philadelphia Phillies (1975-1984).
Known for his famous quote "Ya Gotta Believe" during the Mets' 1973 National League Championship season. Sixteen times in the last month of the season, he would charge off the mound slapping his glove on his right thigh, screaming at no one in particular while racking up 11 saves and four victories. While McGraw was one of the main reasons the Mets were able to capture the National League flag, he was also one of the reasons they had to catch up. He was going through a horrible slump, blowing leads and getting his pitching and pride pounded. The Mets, ultimately the only team to finish over .500 for the season in the National League East, began their climb from last place, 12 1/2 games out. By August 30th, they were 6-1/2 out and McGraw was 0-6. McGraw returned to form, and the Mets reached first place to stay on September 21st. McGraw finished the season with 25 saves.
A turnaround by McGraw also contributed heavily to the Mets' miracle comeback during 1969, when they won 38 of their last 49 regular-season games to win the division by eight games over the Chicago Cubs. During those 49 games, McGraw pitched 29 2/3 innings and was charged with only two runs.
McGraw's best year was actually 1972, when he posted an 11-4 record with 27 saves and a 1.70 ERA. He also was credited with the victory in the 1972 All-Star Game, giving up only one hit and striking out four in working the final two innings. His shining moment as a Phillie came in the 1980 World Series. In Game %, McGraw struck out the Kansas City Royals' Amos Otis with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th to preserve a 4-3 victory. In the sixth and final game, in Philadelphia, McGraw squeezed out of bases-loaded jams in the final two innings and got the save to give the Phillies their first World Championship. It was his third World Series save lifetime, and his five League Championship Series saves is a record. He retired with 180 saves (SEW).
The most famous image of Tug McGraw is of him leaping in the air after striking out Willie Wilson of the Royals to win the 1980 World Series in the Phillies' first World Series championship. Another memorable image is of him pounding his glove against his thigh after another big out during the 1973 season. After his retirement, he made frequent appearances as a baseball reporter for WPVI-TV in Philadelphia. Prior to his death, McGraw was able to take part in ceremonies commemorating the closing of Veterans Stadium.
He contracted brain cancer and battled the disease for ten months when he underwent surgery for a malignant tumor. Sadly, McGraw died from it at age 59 on January 5, 2004 at the home of his son, country singer Tim McGraw.
Other odds and ends
- The story on his nickname is he was being fed as an infant, his mother looked down and said "What a little tugger" and the name stuck.
- His bread and butter pitch was his screwball.
- He is the only Mets pitcher to record a win against Sandy Koufax; it came in one of his few career starts.
- He occasionally pitched batting practice in his uniform, righthanded.
- For a while, he produced a sports comic that was in the comics section of many daily newspapers, called "Screwgie". It was of course, about a major league relief pitcher.
- His brother Hank McGraw played 12 years in the minor leagues.
"YA GOTTA BELIEVE!"
On his new contract, "Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women, and Irish Whiskey. The other ten percent I'll probably waste."
After the Phillies won the 1980 National League Championship Series in the 10th inning of an 8-7 game filled with sensational plays, he said, "It was like riding through an art gallery on a motorcycle."
"Ten million years from now, when the sun burns out and the earth is just a frozen iceball hurtling through space, nobody's gonna care whether or not I got this guy out."
"Some days you tame the tiger. And some days the tiger has you for lunch," his way of explaining a reliever's life on the edge, working when the game is there to be won or lost.
Why drive a 1954 Buick? "I like it because it plays old music."
- 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 of the 1973 NLCS, 2–0, behind the 3-hit pitching of Jerry Koosman and McGraw. Cleon Jones doubles in a run in the 2nd 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 six-player swap. Don Hahn and Dave Schneck also 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 the game 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 two-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 third 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 inside-the-park home run. Bench follows with one over the left field wall.
- August 15, 1978: The Phils 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: The 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 cracks a two-run homer. Final score is 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 Division Series, 2-2.
- 2-time NL All-Star (1972 & 1975)
- NL Winning Percentage Leader (1971)
- Won two World Series with the New York Mets (1969; he did not play in the World Series) and the Philadelphia Phillies (1980)
- Most saves in the League Championship Series, career (5).
- Sets NL record and ties MLB record for most grand slams given up, season (4).
- Tug McGraw (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, March 1982, pp. 65-67.