Tug McGraw

Quite often, sports figures become broadcasters after their active time in sports is over. There was Richie Ashburn, Bill White, Tom Brookshier, Pete Retzlaff and then there was Frank Edwin McGraw; “Tug” to the world.

Most Philadelphians will remember Number 45, Tug McGraw as the guy who struck out Willie Wilson of Kansas City in Game Six of the 1980 World Series. It was an incredible and unforgettable second in time. He jumped off the ground and waved his arms and hands in the air. That pitch at Veterans Stadium on October 21st, was a day to remember. It brought the Philadelphia Phillies their only World Series championship.

"That picture of him standing there with his arms in the air will be embedded in my mind until the day I die," said former teammate and Phillies manager Larry Bowa. "It's one of those things that captures everybody. … (Tug) worked incredibly hard, he wasn't afraid to show his emotions. I know he played with the Mets, but I think he'll be remembered as a Phillie."

"To know Tug was to love him," said Phillies chairman Bill Giles. "He was more than just a pitcher, he was loved by everyone that knew him. He had a special spirit that will never be forgotten."

McGraw started playing organized ball during the 1964 season at Cocoa, Florida in the Florida Instructional League, by pitching for the New York Mets’ minor league team. His first time out, he pitched a no hitter. The next year, 1965, the Mets brought him up to the “big-time” and McGraw had the honor of being the last major league player to be managed by legend Casey Stengel. Tug ended his baseball career with the Phils in 1984. McGraw career-wise had a 96-92 record with an ERA of 3.14 with 180 saves.

By the way, Tug was always walking behind his older brother, Hank, who received a $15,000 signing bonus with the Mets. Hank was a catcher. Interesting that when Tug graduated high school, none of the baseball scouts had an interest in him, so he decided to continue his education at Vallejo Junior College. At his brother’s urging, Tug phoned Mets’ scout Roy Partee. Roy showed little interest until Tug said he would sign for whatever the Mets would offer. They gave him seven grand and the younger McGraw used the cash to purchase a brand-new convertible automobile.

Tug was part of the Mets team that won the World Series in 1969 and the league championship four years later. Phillies General Manager Paul Owens traded for McGraw on Tuesday, December 3, 1974.

“The Tugger” helped Philadelphia to win the Eastern Division during the 1976, 1977 and 1978 seasons. The Phils also reached the playoffs in 1981. In 1980, the year of the World Champion team, he was placed on the disabled list. On July 17th, he came off and allowed only three runs (earned) for the rest of the season. Truly remarkable.

However, what made Tug McGraw, a two-time baseball all-star, truly special to the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia was his broadcast work with WPVI, 6 ABC in Philadelphia. Tug was with the station for 6 years starting in 1988.

Phillies announcer and Broadcast Pioneers member Harry Kalas stated: What we sometimes forget is that Tug pitched in all five games of the league championship series against Houston in 1980. He lost one game but he came back and got a save. That was Tug. He never looked back. There were no negatives in Tug McGraw. He always had a “You Gotta Believe” attitude, and that was infectious with all the teams he played.”

Tug McGraw was born on Wednesday, August 30, 1944, in Martinez, California. He was graduated from St. Vincent Ferrer High in Vallejo, California in 1962. Tug McGraw died at 5:45 p.m. On Monday, January 5, 2004 at the home of country music star Tim McGraw, his son. He was 59. McGraw had been battling cancer and underwent surgery for a malignant brain tumor in March of 2003. Tug had three sons and a daughter. His daughter-in-law was country music star Faith Hill, Tim’s wife.

One time, the Phils gave him a raise. A reporter asked him what he planned to do with the money. Tug said: "Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other 10 percent I'll waste."

Tug McGraw was once asked what he enjoyed. He stated: I like sharing what I've learned with the kids. I think that's what I do best. He also said: Kids should practice autographing baseballs. This is a skill that's often overlooked in Little League. And then you saw his smile…..

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
Photo originally donated by WPVI, 6 ABC
© 2003, All Rights Reserved

The e-mail address of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia is pioneers@broadcastpioneers.com