Tug McGraw (Part Three) His Final Mets Season & Post Mets Career

After the Pennant- 1974: 
 After their pennant season, the Mets struggled the next season.  McGraw was no exception. On Opening Day he gave up a walk off HR to Mike Schmidt in Philadelphia. He did earn his first save the next day. On April 14th, he took an extra inning loss at Shea, this one to the Phillies as well.

On May 5th the Padres tagged him for two runs, to come from behind in a 5-4 win, earning him another loss. By May 15th, his ERA was an enormous 9.00. In a June 30th double header he gave up HRs in both ends, taking the loss in the night cap, when Bake McBride hit a 10th inning HR. 

It wasn't until July 28th, when he earned his first win. In August he did win four games but also blew two games where he took the loss. 

Player of the Week: On August 27th he was given a start at Shea against the Astros. He gave up just one run in six innings to earn the 4-2 win. On September 1st, he threw his only career shut out. It came against the Atlanta Braves in a 3-0 win, where he allowed just five hits, walked one & struck out three. Those two victories earned him the Player of the Week Award.

Tug had arm problems early on that season 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. They worked out a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, to acquire catcher John Stearns as Jerry Grote was now 31 years old.

On December 3, 1974, Tug McGraw was sent to the Phillies along with Dave Schneck for Stearns, Del Unser & Mac Scarce. 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 rival Phillies.

Mets Career Stats: 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 (19th most wins) with 85 saves (7th all time) & a 3.17 ERA. 

He made 361 Mets appearances (7th all time) with 618 strike outs (11th all time) 350 walks (15th all time) in 792 innings pitched (19th all time).

Post Mets Career: 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 & 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 league's 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.

1980 Phillie Championship Season: 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.

1980 Post Season- NLCS: In the NLCS against the Houston Astros, he appeared in all five games. He earned a two inning save in Game #1 & then Game #4 save at Houston. In Game #5 he entered the game in the 9th inning with a two-run lead ready to close it out. Tug gave up four singles, including RBI hits by Rafael Landestoy & Jose Cruz, tying up the game. Garry Maddox RBI double in the top of the 19th was the game winner as the Phillies advanced to the World Series.

Tug got to play in his third World Series, this one against the Kansas City Royal. Over all he was 1-1 with two saves, he struck out ten batters in 7.2 innings while posting a 1.17 ERA. 

 His shining moment came in Game #5, when he struck out his old 1969 Mets teammate, 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 the game by striking out Willie Wilson, clinching the Phils first World Series title. That image of him leaping into the air with his arms raised will live forever in Philadelphia lore. A rare spirts figure who is popular & forever linked to championship teams in both New York & 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.

After the Championship: In 1981 he saved ten games & at age 38 it was his last season as the teams main closer. By 1982 Ron Reed had taken over the role, Tug still earned five saves posting a 2-4 record with a 2.66 ERA. McGraw pitched the next three seasons with the Phillies, through the 1984 season. In his final season he was 2-0 in 25 games.

Career Stats: 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 (1974) & You Gotta Believe (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 & 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. 

McGraw was on hand for the Mets 20th anniversary reunion of the 1973 Pennant team in 1993 as well as various events & celebrations for the 1969 team.

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

Family- Tim McGraw: In 1965 while Tug was pitching for AAA Jacksonville, he had an affair with a high school student named Betty D'Agostino. She & Tug made love only but she became pregnant, then her parents moved her to Louisiana & Tug lost touch. That child was a boy, who would become a Country Music Star, Tim McGraw.

Betty would later marry a truck driver who gave her child a love for country music. But the father became abusive, and the relationship went sour. At age 11 young Tim discovered his birth certificate, he then realized his true father was the pitcher, Tug McGraw. On two occasions McGraw refused to have any involvement with the boy. Tim did say that he met his father twice at games in Houston, but nothing came of it. Finally, as he got older, Tug agreed to finance Tim's education.

Although Tug, had originally wanted to cut ties, during a meeting, he recognized himself in the young Tim. The two began a relationship when Tim was 17. Eventually 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.

Brother Dennis' Drama: 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.

Brother Hank:
Hank McGraw was also a standout baseball player. He was a promising catcher prospect in the Mets organization who convinced the Mets to sign his brother. Hank spent 12 years in the minors but never made it to the big leagues. 

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

Quotes- Tom Seaver: "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 Overlook 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."

Buddy Harrelson: "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." 

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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