Tug McGraw (Part Two) 1973 NL Champion Mets Fireman
But in May he began to struggle, on May 4th he entered a tie game against the Astros, with the bases loaded in the 8th inning. He walked three runs in & had to be removed, the Mets lost it in extra innings.into the game in the 6th inning, with two on & the Mets up on the Astros 7-3. He gave up a double to Cesar Cedeno & a three run HR to Bob Watson tying up the game. In the 7th, he gave up two hits & then walked two batters blowing the four-run lead having to be removed again. The Mets blew the game losing 14-8.
Tug did get a bit on track saving three games until May 19th, when he served up HRs to the Pirates Bob Robertson & a three runs blast to Willie Stargell. He was 0-2 with an ERA over five. He didn't record another save for almost a month in mid-June and he was getting hit hard.
Low Points: He blew two more in three days at the end of June, then gave up four runs to the Phillies on June 28th, including a three run HR to Tommy Hutton. In the second game of a July 1st double header, Tug gave up a walk off HR to the Chicago Cubs Randy Hundley at Wrigley Field.
After that game 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. It looked as though McGraw was through.
Badamano told Tug “You got to believe in yourself & think positive”. That’s it Tug said to himself, “You gotta believe”.
"You Gotta Believe": In a now famous closed door team meeting led by the Mets chairman of the board; M. Donald Grant, a rally cry was born.
Grant gave the team a pep talk, telling them how the front office was behind them & still believed in them. Then it happened as a rally cry was born, McGraw jumped up and shouted “You gotta believe! You gotta believe!” right in the middle of Grants speech.
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, the old man was upset. It took a couple of weeks, but things began to turn around for the best for the New York Mets. First off, the team got healthy., after losing almost all it's regulars to injuries.
On August 22nd, McGraw finally earned his first win. It came in a 9th inning comeback over the Dodgers, with key hits from Felix Millan & John Milner. That week Tug earned two saves in back to back home games against the Padres. On August 31st, he earned a four-inning relief victory at St. Louis beating the Cardinals. At the end of August 1973, the Mets were still in last place, ten games under .500 but now only six games behind those first place Cardinals.
Whichever way Tug McGraw meant his “You gotta believe” outburst to be, it became legendary. For Mets fans it will never 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.
Double Header Save/win: In a September 7th double header, in Montreal he got the last out of a Jon Matlack 1-0 win, getting Ron Hunt to ground out with two men on, earning a save. In the night cap, he pitched five innings of relief, from the 10th through the 15th inning, striking out a season high six batters. In the top of the 15th, he drove in two runs with a base hit off Mike Marshall, then earned the win in 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 1qscoreless innings & struck out 13 batters. He had an 18 scoreless inning streak as well in that time covering September 9th - September 25th. At this point the Mets were so hot, they were just within 1 ½ games of first place.
After three days of rain, they lost a 1-0 heartbreaker in the first game of a Sunday double header to the Cubs, giving the Cardinals & Prates one final chance to catch them.
But in the night cap, Jerry Koosman held the Cubs to two runs, striking out seven in a 9-2 Mets win, as the bats came alive. The win clinched them at least a tie of the top spot in the Eastern Division.
In the last game of the season, on Monday October 1st, 1973, McGraw came in to relieve a tired Tom Seaver in the 7th inning with the Mets ahead 6-4. Tug pitched three shutout innings, striking out four Cubs to earn his 25th save and clinch the Eastern Divisional title.
He finished the 1973 Mets Pennant year at 5-6 with 25 saves (2nd most in the NL for the second straight year) making 60 appearances, finishing 46 games (3rd most in the NL) striking out 81 batters in 118 innings posting a 3.87 ERA.
Trademark, slapping his Glove on his Thigh: 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.
In Game #4 at Shea, 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. Tug got Joe Morgan to pop up for out #2.
The incredible late season comeback & a shocking NLCS win over the Big Red Machine, had the Mets advanced to the World Series for the second time in four years.
In the clubhouse celebration Tug McGraw sprayed champagne on everyone from the Mayor to his team mates to the media, shouting “You Gotta Believe, You Gotta Believe”!!
1973 Post Season- World Series: 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”.
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.
In the Game #2 ten-inning marathon at Oakland, Tug pitched an incredible six innings of relief. He did allow four runs on five hits but also struck out eight Oakland batters. He came into the game relieving Jerry Koosman with the Mets up 6-3.
In Game #3, Tug appeared in relief of Tom Seaver in the 9th inning at Shea Stadium. This game was a classic 2-2 pitching duel at that point with Seaver facing off against Catfish Hunter.
Tug entered the game tied in the 9th inning, with two men on & nobody out. When Ted Kubiak bunted, McGraw fielded it & got the out at third. He then struck out Angel Mangual looking & got Bert Campaneris to fly out to center to end the inning.
In Game #5 at Shea Stadium, Jerry Koosman shut out the A's into the 7th inning. The Mets had a two-run lead off Vida Blue.
McGraw pumped his glove on his thigh, shouting as he walked off the field to a wild Shea Stadium standing ovation.
Even New York Mayor, John Lindsay was shouting & holding up a sign that read- “You Gotta Believe” as Tug walked off the field.
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 would make one more appearance in Series, pitching the 8th inning of Game #6 with Oakland ahead 2-1. He gave up a single to Reggie Jackson, an error in the outfield allowed Jackson to go all the way to third base. He quickly scored on a Jesus Alou sac fly.
McGraw got a double play ball from Deron Johnson to end things. But the Mets took a 3-1 loss evening the series. In Game Seven the Mets ran out of gas, taking a heart breaking 5-2 loss.
Quotes--Tug McGraw: “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”