Aug 29, 2016

Tug McGraw (Part Three): Beyond His Mets Career

In 1974 the Mets struggled, and McGraw was no exception. Tug had arm problems and couldn’t recover. A lump was found in his shoulder and it was even feared he may have had cancer. He went 6-11 with only three saves and a 4.16 ERA, in 88 innings he gave up 96 hits and 41 earned runs.

The Mets organization believed McGraw was done and his arm was permanently damaged. On December 3, 1974, It was the first of many sad days to come in Mets history when the fan favorite and one of the most popular Mets ever was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Don Hahn and Dave Schneck in exchange for John Stearns, Del Unser and Mac Scarce.

At the time of the trade, McGraw was the all-time Mets leader in saves & games pitched. He still ranks high on many of the Mets all time records: McGraw finished his Mets career at 47-55 (17th most wins) with 85 saves (5th all time) & a 3.17 ERA. He made 361 Mets appearances (6th all time) with 618 strike outs (11th all time) 350 walks (12th all time) in 792 innings pitched (17th all time) .

Beyond the Mets: After the trade, he was diagnosed with a simple cyst and after successful surgery to remove it, McGraw recovered completely. With the Phillies, he continued his role as a reliable relief pitcher. He posted ERA’s under three for the next three seasons, and had double figures in saves two straight seasons. He saved 14 games in 1975, eleven in 1976 and nine games in both 1977 & 1978.

Over those years he pitched in three more NLCS going 0-1 with a save, as the Phillies lost each Series. McGraw would finish in the leagues top ten in saves, four more times after his Mets career. By 1979 he was 4-3 with 16 saves but posted an ERA over five.

In 1980, he finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting, compiling 20 saves and a 1.46 ERA while helping the Phillies win their first ever World Championship. Without McGraw, the Phillies would have never done it. After coming off the disabled list on July 17 McGraw allowed just three earned runs the rest of the season posting an unbelievable 0.52 ERA. He recorded 11 of his 20 saves after July 31 and was 5-0 with five saves during the stretch run in September and October.

Post Season: In the NLCS against the Houston Astros, he appeared in all five games, saving two of them. In the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, he struck out ten batters in 7 2/3 innings, going 1-1 with two saves while posting a 1.17 ERA. His shining moment came in the fifth game, when he struck out his old Mets team mate, Amos Otis with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th to preserve the 4-3 victory.

In the final Game #6 McGraw squeezed out of bases-loaded jams in the final two innings. He saved game by striking out Willie Wilson, clinching the World Series title. There a forever stilling image of him leaping into the air with his arms raised will live forever in Philadelphia.

It was his third lifetime World Series save, and his five NLCS saves were a record at the time. In 26 post season games he was 3-3 with seven saves and a 2.24 ERA.

In 1981 he saved 10 games, it was his last season as a closer. By 1982 Ron Reed had taken over the role, and McGraw pitched through the 1984 season. In his 19 year career Tug McGraw posted a 96-92 record with 180 saves (56th all time). He struck out 1109 batters in 1514 innings posting a 3.14 ERA in 824 appearances (42nd all time). McGraw finished 541 games (29th all time) & was in the leagues top ten in that category eight times. His 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched ratio is 155th all time.

Retirement: McGraw announced his retirement on Valentine's Day 1985, to celebrate; as he said "his love affair with baseball". He wrote a number of children's books, and two autobiographies, Screwball in 1974 & You Gotta Believe in 2001.

In the mid 1970s McGraw was involved with the creation of the nationally syndicated comic strip "Scroogie." In the 1980s and 1990s, he was a reporter for Action News in Philadelphia, usually doing sports or wacky stories. Through the years, Tug also appeared as a panelist on TV shows, hosted sports videos, & narrated "Peter and the Wolf".

Honors: He was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1993 and to the Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame in 1999. In 2003 he was invited to throw out the last pitch at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. He was on hand for the Mets 20th anniversary reunion of the 1973 team as well as celebrations for the 1969 team.

He threw out the first pitch during the 2000 Mets NLDS Game #3 vs San Francisco.

Family: During his 1965 minor league season, McGraw fathered an illegitimate child named Tim. He was raised by an abusive truck-driving father, and at age 11 he discovered his birth certificate. He realized his true father was Tug McGraw. On two occasions McGraw refused to have any involvement with the boy before finally agreeing to finance his education, in return for cutting off all contact.

But during another meeting, he recognized himself in the youth, and they were reconciled. Tim McGraw became a major country music star, who married the beautiful Faith Hill. The father and son grew very close and Tug spent his final days at the Nashville home of his son Tim McGraw & Faith Hill.

Tug’s younger brother, Dennis, was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a neighbor in Vallejo, California. Hank McGraw, Tug's older brother, told Sports Illustrated that Dennis had been estranged from his siblings for more than 20 years, ever since an incident with a police officer sent him to a Psychiatric hospital. Their mother had once been treated at the same hospital.

Hank McGraw was a once promising prospect in the Mets organization but never made itto the big leagues. see full story: below

Passing: On March 12, 2003, McGraw was working as a spring training instructor for the Phillies when he was hospitalized with a brain tumor. Surgery performed to remove it revealed that he had cancer. Given three weeks to live by doctors, he managed to survive nine months. McGraw died of brain cancer at the home of his son, Tim McGraw, outside of Nashville.

Quotes: "Tug McGraw was one of the great characters of the game of baseball; He just had a joy for life and living. But what people sometimes Over look because he was always happy-go-lucky was what kind of competitor he was on the mound. No one competed with more intensity than he did. “-Hall of Famer Tom Seaver.

"He was full of life, love and spirit. His death is a reality check for us, just like when Tommie (Agee) died a couple of years ago. His passing drives home to me that you have to value every second that you are on this earth." former Mets teammate Buddy Harrelson.

The Tug McGraw Foundation: Was established by Tug McGraw in 2003 to raise funds to enhance the quality of life of children and adults with brain tumors and their families by stimulating and facilitating research that addresses the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual impact of the disease.

Funding is directed to the Tug McGraw Center for Neuro-Oncology Quality of Life Research at Duke University Medical Center and to other research and medical institutions through a competitive grant program.

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