Aug 31, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1975) Seaver Wins His 20th Game & Sets Record With Eight Straight 200 K Seasons

Monday September 1, 1975: This was a big night at the time for the '75 Mets.

Interim Manager Roy McMillan's third place Mets (72-64) were just four games behind the first place Pittsburgh Pirates (75-59).

Danny Murtaugh's Pirates were at Shea this evening, as 45,991 fans filled up Shea Stadium to see Pittsburgh's John Candeleria (7-4) go up against that Years Cy Young Award winner; Tom Seaver. Seaver was going for his 20th victory & going after yet another strike out record.

MLB Record: Tonight Tom Seaver would strike out ten Pirates, putting him over the 200 strike out mark for the eighth straight season. A feat no other pitcher had done before.

In the 1975 season Seaver would once again lead the league in strikeouts with 243. It was the fouth time he topped the National League in strike outs, doing it in 1970, 1971, 1973 & 1975. He would do it one final time the following season in 1976.

Tonight's victory put him at the twenty win mark, the fourth time in his career that he reached that milestone. Seaver would end up leading the league in victories in 1975 going 22-9 with the 3rd best ERA in the league at 2.38.

He pitched 15 complete games (3rd in the NL) & toss five shut outs (4th in the NL). These number won Tom Terific his Third Cy Young Award (1969-1973-1975).

Seaver would win the Player of the Week Award this week, his second Player of the Week Award of the Year. He had also won Pitcher of the Month in June of 1975.

Starting Lineups

Seaver was spectacular on this night, as he pitched the complete game four hit shut out. He gave up just one walk while striking out ten. From the 6th inning on, he notched six of the ten strike outs. It was the second straight game he struck out ten batters & the third time on the year he went into double figures in strike outs.

 In the home 1st, the Mets gave him support quickly. Rookie Mike Vail hit his first career HR, putting the Mets up 1-0. Later in the 6th, Felix Millan led off with a single and scored on a Rusty Staub double. Joe Torre then drove home Staub with a base hit, to seal the Mets 3-0 win.

Remembering Mets History: (2016) Big Night As Mets Continue Playoff Persuit / Grandy Hits A Pair of HRs & Familia Ties Club Save Record

Tuesday August 30th 2016: The previous night Yoenis Cespedes hit a dramatic walk off HR at Citi Field taking a page from his own book of a year ago. Cespedes helped the Mets take the first game of a big series with the Miami Marlins. The Mets had now won eight of their last ten games. The Mets are now hot, in the midst of a wild card chasing pennant race to the post season.

A team that has been struggling with injuries all year, a team that lost their Captain David Wright, one of their sluggers Lucas Duda for pretty much the entire season & has also lost its one of it's top pitchers; Matt Harvey for the year. Now it's Steven Matz down as well as second base slugger Neil Walker.

The list goes on & on......and oh yea the Mets future outfield star Michael Conforto has struggled so much he's in the minor leagues. It's a different team than last years NL Champions but many of the old faces are still there as well. Are these Mets who were hurting to score runs all year now making the run we all expected & wanted..........looks like it's happening.

Terry Collins Mets (67-64) were hosting Don Mattingly's Miami Marlins (67-64) both tied for second place in the NL East and 2 1/2 games out of the wild card hunt as well. Yes it was a big game. Those hurting Mets sent another young inexperienced pitcher to the mound as their young star studded staff suffered through injuries & fatigue. Sunday Robert Gsellman stepped up, Monday it was Rafael Montero & tonight Seth Lugo.

Lugo started out with a shaky 1st inning,  allowing a two run HR to Christian Yelich. He eventually settled down, giving up no more runs, he went six innings allowing those two runs on five hits, four strike outs & a walk.

The Mets bats were slugging tonight, the now blonde but still sore legged Asdrubal Cabrera,  blasted a two run HR, his 17th of the year, as he continued his hot hitting after returning from the DL. Jay Bruce who's still trying to feel comfy with a bat in a Mets uniform got a solid hit & scored on Wilmer Flores base hit.

The score remained that way until Curtis Granderson delivered a pinch hit HR in the in the 6th inning. He stayed in the game & hit a two run HR in the 7th inning. Granderson's crazy season has him at 22 HRs with just 38 RBIs, very strange. He's on pace to become the first player in MLB history to hit 25 HRs & drive in less than 50 RBIs.

Also in the 6th, Jose Reyes (who's hitting .300 by the way) doubled. Walks to Cabrera & Bruce loaded the bases. Alejandro De Aza who couldn't hit anything at the start of the season & although he's still under .200,  has driven in 15 of his 21 RBIs in the month of August.

With Jim Henderson not being able to close the door in the 9th, the Marlins scored two runs. Terry Collins went to Jeruys Familia & he struck out Marcell Ozuna to end the game.

He earned the save his 43rd on the season, tying his own Mets record, also shared with Armando Benitez.

Remembering Mets History: (1985) Strawberry Hits Three HRs At Wrigley Field As Mets Take Over First Place

Monday August 5th 1985: Davey Johnson's Mets (62-42) were one half game out of first place behind the St. Louis Cardinals. On this day a Cardinal loss & this Mets win led to the Mets taking over first place in the NL East.

Today the Mets were on the road as the went up against Jim Frey's fourth place Chicago Cubs (54-50). A crowd of 34, 167 filed into Wrigley Field to see the Cubs Derek Botelho (0-0) go up against New York's Ed Lynch (8-5).

This was to be one of Mets slugger; Darryl Strawberry's biggest days

Starting Lineups

The winds of Chicago were blowing in the right direction for Straw on this day, as he would belt three HRs. Straw began his big day in the 1st inning. With two outs, Keith Hernandez & Gary Carter both walked. Straw then hit his first of the day, a three run shot, his 13th of the year.

In the 3rd, Strawberry hit a solo HR, also off of starter, Botelho making it 4-0 Mets. In the 5th Straw was walked intentionally, he & Wally Backman scored on a Danny Heep double making it 6-0 Mets.

In the top of the 7th, with New York up 6-1, Straw connected for another solo HR, this one off of reliever, Ron Meredith. It was his 15th HR of the year.

Straw would have four hits on the day, three of them HRs, as he drove in five of the seven Mets runs, in the 7-2 Mets win. Eddie Lynch got the win getting to 9-5 on the year.

At this point the Mets were in the midst of a nine game win streak, holding on to first place. But the St. Louis Cardinals kept pace remaining just one back.

Aug 30, 2018

1973 N.L. Champion Mets Fireman- Tug McGraw (Part Two) "You Gotta Believe"

In 1973 Tug started out the season with another Opening Day save after relieving Tom Seaver to finish off the Philadelphia Phillies. In the first month of thee 1973 season he had four saves and was posting a 1.59 ERA, just like the Tug McGraw of old. But in mid May he began to struggle, he only notched one save from that point through mid June and he was getting hit hard.

In an early May game he blew a four run lead against the Houston Astros, giving up a three run HR to Bob Watson. He was charged with seven runs overall on that day. He did get credit for three saves following that game but then allowed two HRs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, blowing a save while taking a loss. His ERA soared to 5.19 & over the next two months. He blew four saves, took two losses dropping to 0-4 on the year & only notched three saves.

On June 28th he came in relief in the 7th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies, Greg Luzinski & Tommy Hutton led the way & lit him up for four runs.

In the second game of a July 1st double header he gave up a walk off HR to the Chicago Cubs Randy Hundley at Wrigley Field. Another terrible outing came two days later in Montreal on July 3rd, when he allowed seven earned runs in relief to the Expos.

That day he said he felt like he had no idea how to throw a baseball. It was as if he had never played baseball in his life. He blew another save against the Atlanta Braves and had an ERA over six when Yogi Berra decided to use him as a starter.

His first start was July 17th in Atlanta but it was also a nightmare. He allowed seven runs on ten hits over six innings pitched but the Mets bailed him out with a seven run 9th inning, led by a pair of two run HRs from Rusty Staub & John Milner. Also pinch hitters Jim Beachamp & Willie Mays drove in runs as well with key hits.

The team also struggled through injuries to some its key players, and in the middle of summer was below .500, in last place eleven games out. By August McGraw’s record had slipped to 0-6, and then one afternoon it all seemed to make sense. He was having lunch with an old friend of Gil Hodges, a man named Joe Badamano who was a motivational speaker.

Badamano told Tug “you got to believe in yourself & think positive”. That’s it Tug said to himself, “You gotta believe”. He kept repeating it to himself, his team mates, & to the fans. Then in a famous closed door team meeting with chairman of the board; M. Donald Grant, a rally cry was born.

"You Gotta Believe": Rumors were swirling in the press about who was to be fired in the Mets organization, The newspapers actually had a poll asking the public who the Mets should let go; the manager Yogi Berra? the General Manager Bob Scheffing? Or the Chairman M. Donald Grant? Since Berra was the most popular guy, he was voted to stay.

Grant gave the team a pep talk, telling them the front office was behind them and still believed in them. Then it happened; McGraw jumped up and shouted, “You gotta believe! You gotta believe!” right in the middle of the Grants speech.

Grant wasn’t sure if he was being mocked or supported. He stormed out of the room with his brass of upper management behind him. Some of his teammates laughed thinking Tug was actually mocking the chairman of the board.

Ed Kranepool went over to Tug telling him he should straighten things out with Grant to cool him off. McGraw went over to talk with Grant, and sure enough he was upset. It took a couple of weeks but things began to turn around for the best as the team got healthy.

On August 22nd McGraw finally earned his first win, after a 9th inning comeback win by the Mets, with key hits from Felix Millan & John Milner. That week Tug earned two saves & another victory at St. Louis against the Cardinals. At the end of August 1973 the Mets were still in last place, ten games under .500 but only six games behind the first place Cardinals.

Whichever way Tug McGraw meant his “You gotta believe” outburst to be, it became legendary. For Mets fans it will never be forgotten & always be associated with the team. It was also to be one of baseball’s greatest battle cries ever. “You Gotta Believe” led the Mets from last place all the way to the World Series.

McGraw turned his season around, he had a spectacular September winning five games (5-0) and earning ten saves. He posted a 0.88 ERA striking out 38 batters in 41 innings, allowing just two earned runs all month long. On September 7th in Montreal he pitched five innings of relief from the 10th through the 15th inning, and drove in two runs with a base hit to earn the 4-2 victory.

Over an incredible eight day stretch in mid September from the 12th -19th, he saved four games and earned two victories. In that stretch he pitched 11 innings allowing no runs & struck out 13 batters. This lifted the Mets to within 1 ½ games of first place.

During a crucial Series against the first place Pittsburgh Pirates, McGraw earned the win in the final game at Three Rivers Stadium. The next night at Shea Stadium he got the save pitching three innings of shutout relief.

After two more Mets wins, including the famous “ball off the wall night” the Mets were above .500 and in first place passing the Pirates. “You Gotta Believe” was being shouted everywhere all over New York City!

NL East Clinching Series: The Mets lost their final home game of the season & went to a four game Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago, to try to clinch the NL Eastern title.

After three days of rain, they lost a 1-0 heartbreaker in the first game of a double header giving the Cardinals & Prates one final chance to catch them.

But Jerry Koosman won the nightcap & clinched at least a tie of the Eastern Division.

In the last game of the season McGraw came in to relieve a tired Tom Seaver in the 7th inning with the Mets ahead 6-4. He pitched three shutout innings, striking out four Cubs to earn the save and clinch the Eastern Divisional title.

He finished the 1973 Mets Pennant year at 5-6 with 25 saves in 60 appearances, striking out 81 batters in 118 innings posting a 3.87 ERA.

By now he had developed his trademark of slapping his glove on his thigh as he stormed off the mound. It was a signal of affection to his wife watching at home which really took off after the birth of their second son that month.

1973 Post Season- NLCS: In the post season McGraw continued his spectacular pitching. In the NLCS against the Cincinnati Big Red Machine, he did not appear until Game #4 since Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack & Jerry Koosman all had thrown complete games.

Tug struggled a bit but did not allow any runs. He got out of jams pitching four innings, walking three and giving up three hits.

In the final Game #5 clincher at Shea Stadium, he came in the 9th inning to relieve Tom Seaver who was beginning to tire.

Tug walked into a bit of a jam, although the Mets had a five run lead, the bases were loaded with just one out. He got Joe Morgan to pop up & Dan Driessan to ground out to John Milner at first base.

McGraw covered first base as John Milner flipped the ball to him. Tug grabbed his hat and ran for his life as the Mets fans swarmed the field, tearing up anything they could. The incredible season comeback had the Mets advanced to the World Series for the second time in four years.

In the clubhouse celebration Tug McGraw sprayed champagne shouting “You Gotta Believe, You Gotta Believe”!! In his book “Screwball” Tug said the Mets felt punchy as they arrived in the San Francisco Bay area for the World Series. “We had been denounced, damned, cheered, mobbed, written up, screwed up & bombed out of our minds”.

1973 Post Season- World Series: In the 1973 World Series Tug was again Yogi Berra’s go to guy in the bullpen. He became a national star on television for the whole country to watch.

McGraw appeared in five of the seven games, earning a win, a save, posting a 2.63 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched. He pitched a scoreless inning and a half in the Series Opener at Oakland’s Alameda Coliseum, but the Mets lost 2-1.

In the Game #2 ten-inning marathon in Oakland he pitched an incredible six innings of relief. He did allow four runs on five hits but also struck out eight Oakland batters. He earned the win as the Mets scored four runs off Rollie Fingers in the top of the 12th inning on RBI hits by Willie Mays, John Milner & Jerry Grote. McGraw even got a bunt base hit in the top of the 12 inning, and came around to score on one of Oakland infielder Mike Andrews two straight errors. The win evened the Series at one game each heading back to New York.

He appeared in relief of Tom Seaver in the 9th inning of Game #3 at Shea Stadium. This game  was a classic 2-2 pitching duel at that point with Seaver facing off against Catfish Hunter.

Tug pitched two scoreless innings earning no decision. Oakland won it in the 11th inning when a passed ball got by Jerry Grote on a third strike & Ted Kubiak reached second base. He scored on a Campaneis single off Harry Parker.

In Game #5 back at Shea Stadium, McGraw relieved Jerry Koosman in the 7th inning with runners on second & third base. There was one out with the Mets leading 2-0. McGraw walked Deron Johnson to load the bases, but then got Angel Mangual to pop up & Bert Campaneris (who was killing the Mets in the series) to strikeout looking on a nasty screwball. 

McGraw pumped his glove on his thigh, shouting as he walked off the field to a wild Shea standing ovation.

New York City Mayor John Lindsay
Even New York Mayor John Lindsay was shouting “You Gotta Believe” as Tug walked off the field. Koosman told McGraw about it as he reached the bench & Tug peeked out of the dugout to acknowledge the Mayor.

Tug and Jerry Koosman combined on a three hit shutout against the mighty A’s lineup. Cleon Jones’ RBI double in the second inning and Don Hahn's triple scored the only runs, putting the Mets ahead three games to two, as the Series shifted back to Oakland.

McGraw made one more appearance in Game #6 pitching the 8th inning with Oakland ahead 2-1. He allowed a single to Reggie Jackson but an error allowed Jackson to go third base. He scored on a Jesus Alou sac fly. In the inning he got a strike out & double play to end things. The Mets lost a heart breaking Series in Game Seven.

Quotes: “Ten million years from now, when the sun burns out and the earth is a frozen ice ball, no one will care if I got this guy out or not” -Tug McGraw

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.

Aug 29, 2018

1973 N.L. Champion Mets Fireman- Tug McGraw (Part One:) The Sixties / Early Seventies

Frank Edwin McGraw was born August 30, 1944 in Martinez, California. As a baby he would firmly tug his mother’s breast as she breast fed him, earning the lifelong nickname Tug. His mother was manic depressive and split on the family while on a weekend pass from a mental institution. He & his brothers were raised by their father, playing sports attending Catholic schools.

Tug’s brother Hank, was an outstanding catching prospect that was signed by the Mets scout Roy Partee in 1961. A couple of years later, he told the team to sign his brother Tug as well, or else he wouldn’t play. Hank spent 12 years in the minors, but would never reach the big league level. He was once famously suspended for not cutting his hair.

Tug was a left-handed pitcher still developing his pitching style. The Mets signed McGraw right out of junior college in 1964 as a bonus baby for $7,000. He made his pro debut pitching a no hitter at Cocoa Beach.

In April of 1965 he was on the Mets big league squad, making his MLB debut at the age of 20. He struckout Orlando Cepeda in the first game of a double header, and was so excited he needed a tranquilizer to calm himself down.

He earned his first save at Philadelphia pitching one inning of relief on May 24th, and three months later got his first career win. It was a complete game, two run, five strikeout performance against St. Louis at Shea Stadium.

His next outing was his most important win of the year, as he beat the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax. The great Koufax already had 21 wins that season, and had beaten the Mets four times & was 14-0 lifetime against them. McGraw allowed two first 1st inning runs, then settled down to shut out the Dodgers into the 8th inning. After winning back to back starts he lost his next five decisions finishing at 2-7 with a 3.32 ERA.

He struggled as a starter the next season going 2-9 with an ERA over five and was sent to AAA Jacksonville for most of the season. There he met former New York pitcher Ralph Terry who taught him to throw a screwball, while playing golf. It took him the rest of the year & all of 1968 at AAA ball to learn how to throw it right.

Tug had to fool the strict manager, Sheriff Robinson who didn’t want his young pitchers throwing any new pitches. But when he did, the pitch changed Tug’s career, it cut inside to right handers & away from lefties, making it very tough to hit the left hander.

He was 10-9 with a league leading 1.99 ERA at Jacksonville in 1967, & won another nine games the following year (10-9).

1969 Amazing Mets: Tug was on the Mets 1969 roster, and got the win pitching six innings of relief on the second game of the season, beating the expansion Expos at Shea. He was 3-0 as a starter in mid May, when Gil Hodges called him into his office.

He told Tug, he thought he could be a huge asset to the club as late inning stopper out of the bullpen. He felt his screw ball would fool hitters late in the game, and that Tug could be very successful making himself a lot of money in that role, but left the decision up to him. McGraw agrees and the rest is history, he went on to become one of the first superstar relief pitchers in the game.

He saved five games in June and would go on to win six more games along the way, taking only three losses. During the pennant stretch drive, McGraw saved seven games and won three, losing only once while posting a 0.45 ERA. That September he earned the win against the Phillies the night Steve Carlton stuck out 19 batters, but two Ron Swoboda HRs won it for New York.

Overall, In 1969 McGraw struck out 92 batters in 100 innings pitched, going 9-3 posting 12 saves (8th in the league) and a 2.42 ERA over 42 games.

Ron Taylor was still the Mets main closer that season, and Nolan Ryan was used in long relief in the post season.

1969 Post Season: NLCS: His only post season appearance was in Game #1 of the NLCS where he earned the save pitching three innings, allowing no runs, one hit & a walk.

Tug McGraw Celebrates as Mets Sweep the Atlanta Braves in 1969 NLCS

Tug McGraw quickly earned a reputation as a flaky guy, a free spirit who enjoyed living life to the fullest. He was a whole lot of fun to be around, like to party & spend time with the ladies.

Quotes: When he signed his next contact he said” I’ll probably spend 90% of this on good times, women & Irish whiskey. The other 10% I’ll probably justy waste.”

When he was asked if he preferred natural grass or Astroturf he said “I don’t know, I never smoked Astroturf”. One story says when the Mets team toured Vietnam in 1970, Ron Taylor had to slap a joint out of Tugs mouth, as he attempted to light up.

Tug also like to cut hair. He would volunteer to cut the homeless’ hair on the Bowery; and in the military when on reserve duty. He once cut Ralph Kiners hair, on Kiners Korner. Kiner joked, it took him four months to grow it back. Tug had also served his time in the military reserves as a Marine, in the mid sixties.

In the winter of 1970 he injured his ankle on a toboggan run with team mate Ron Swoboda. He told the club he hurt it slipping on ice while throwing out the garbage at home. He began the season, earning a save on Opening Day against the Pittsburgh Pirates as the Mets raised the World Championship banner. It was the first Opening Day game the franchise had ever won.

He would save four more games through May but also take two losses & blow another save. He was still sharing the closing chances with Ron Taylor & by the All Star break McGraw had seven saves posting a 3.64 ERA with a 1-3 record.

He didn’t have to many more save opportunities earning just one more save until the end of August. In September he pitched a five inning relief outing at Shea against the Montreal Expos,, although he allowed three runs he still got the win as the Mets scored ten runs, winning10-5.

In his next appearance he pitched six scoreless against the Cardinals but earned no decision. McGraw earned another win that month in Philadelphia pitching 2.2 scoreless innings. He also was credited with a pair of saves that month. He finished the year at 4-6 with ten saves (second on the staff to Taylor) 81 strike outs, 49 walks 90 innings & a 3.28 ERA in 57 appearances.

By 1971 he was now sharing the closer duties with Danny Frisella, together the two made for one of baseball’s best relief combos. In 53 games Frisella was 8-5 with a team leading 12 saves.

McGraw would then have his best season up that point as well. He started the year with an extra inning win against the Cincinnati Reds on April 11th, combining on a 12 inning shutout with Tom Seaver.

Things picked up as the summer rolled in, In June he made ten appearances going 2-1 with three saves. On June 19th he pitched five shutout innings against the Phillies at Shea Stadium but earned no decision. By the All Star break he was 6-3 with six saves and a 1.90 ERA.

In the second half of the season he never let his ERA climb above the two mark & was very effective going 5-1 with three saves the rest of the way. His screwball made him especially tough on right handed hitters, and overall the league just hit .189 against him.

McGraw would end up 1971 with eight saves, but more importantly he won 11 games (3rd most wins on the staff) going 11-4. He posted a .733 winning percentage & a 1.71 ERA. He struck out a career high 109 batters in 111 innings while walking just 41 in 51 appearances.

McGraw started out 1972 with another Opening Day save, as he combined with Tom Seaver on a shutout against the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. On this day the Mets honored Gil Hodges by retiring his uniform #14, after Hodges had suddenly passed away during Spring Training due to a heart attack.

Tug started out the year 2-0 with seven saves before taking his first loss in mid May. Yogi Berra was now the manager and he began to use Tug as the main reliever on a regular basis, although Frisella still posted nine saves while finishing 31 games .

1972 All Star Game: By the All Star break Tug already had 13 saves and an ERA of just 2.00, as he was named to his first All Star team. It was the only time in his career he would pitch in the midsummer classic.
He pitched two innings and struck out the side in the 9th inning, which included Reggie Jackson, Bobby Grich & Norm Cash. He earned the victory for the National League when Cincinnati’s Joe Morgan drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning.

For the second half of the season, McGraw was even better; from August 12th through September 22nd he blew just one save opportunity, going 3-0 recording eight saves. He finished the year with a club record at that time; 27 saves (2nd in the league) a Mets mark that that stood until 1984.

He posted an 8-6 record with an identical 1.70 ERA from the previous year.

That year he allowed just three HRs in 106 innings pitched and was being recognized as a star player, as relievers were finally earning some recognition. Even Cincinnati Reds manager Sparky Anderson called him “the Seaver of saves”.