Tug McGraw (Part Two) 1973 NL Champion Mets Fireman

1973 Mets N.L. Pennant Season: 
 Tug started out the season with another Opening Day save, after relieving Tom Seaver to finish off ta shut out of the Philadelphia Phillies. At the end of April, he had four straight saves and was posting a 1.59 ERA, just like the Tug McGraw of old. 

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. 

On May 6th, he came 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.

Possibly his worst outing came two days later on July 3rd, in Montreal. He allowed seven earned runs in 1.1 innings of relief, led by a grand slam HR to Bob Bailey & two run blast from John Boccabella.

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.

Rock Bottom: On July 7th he blew another game, taking his fourth loss, still yet to have recorded a victory on the season. The next day the Mets fell 12.5 games out of first place, dead last in the NL East. It looks as though the season was over. 

Soon the NY media ran a poll in the papers asking the fans on who should be fired, Yogi Berra the manager, Bob Scheffing the GM or M. Donald Grant the chairman! Yogi Berra was still very popular in NY so the fans voted he should stay.

On July 17th, Berra decided to put McGraw in the starting rotation, giving him a start against the Atlanta Braves in Fulton County Stadium. It too, 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 keys runs as well.

Turn Around: By August, McGraw’s record had slipped to 0-6 with an ERA of 5.24. 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 the phrase to himself, then to his last place teammates. He even started telling it to the frustrated fans. 

"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.

Grant wasn’t sure if he was being mocked or supported. He stormed out of the room with his brass of upper management right behind him. Some of his teammates started to laugh, knowing Tug, thinking he was 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, 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.

McGraw turned his season around as 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. 

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.

During a crucial five straight games 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. 

The Mets took four of the five games, including the famous “ball on the wall game” getting above .500 and taking over first place. “You Gotta Believe” was being heard & 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 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 the first three games, Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack & Jerry Koosman all had thrown complete games. The Mets went up in the series two games to one after the Game #3 win that featured the Bud Harrelson Pete Rose brawl.

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.

He then got Dan Driessen 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 & grabbing anything from a Mets player they could. 

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”.

 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. 

In Game #1, at Oakland Coliseum, he pitched two scoreless innings finishing off the 2-1 Mets loss.

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 the 7th, he hit Bert Campaneris on the head with a pitch, was shaken up then walked Joe Rudi. Reggie Jackson then drove in two runs with a double. In the 9th with the Mets up 6-4 McGraw gave up a leadoff double to pinch hitter Deron Johnson then walked Sal Bando with two outs. Base hits from Jackson & Gene Tenace tied the game up at six.

Assisted by two Oakland errors from second baseman Mike Andrews, the Mets scored four runs in the top of the 12th to win the game 10-6. McGraw even got a bunt base hit in the top of the 12 inning and came around to score on one of Andrews' errors. McGraw had started the bottom of the 12th, but gave up a walk & a triple getting relieved by George Stone.

The win evened the Series at one game each heading back to New York.

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.

He pitched a scoreless 10th inning as well. Oakland won it in the 11th inning when a passed ball got by Jerry Grote on a third strike from pitcher Harry Parker to Ted Kubiak. Kubiak reached all the way to second base. He scored on Campanreis' single off to center.

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 relieved Jerry Koosman in the 7th inning, with one out, runners on second & third base. 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 very nasty screwball, exciting the Shea crowd to its feet. 

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. 

Video footage showed Jerry Koosman telling McGraw about it & pointing to the mayor 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 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” 


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