"Ya Gotta Believe!"
That phrase just sums up Tug McGraw completely. He first uttered his famous phrase as a member of the 1973 Mets during a team meeting hosted by Mets Chairman of the Board M. Donald Grant, who was attempting to rally his last place team, which had lost 10 of their last 13 games, falling 12 1/2 games out of the division lead. From the back of the room, McGraw shouted "Ya gotta believe!" It would wind up being a rallying cry for the team as they battled back, took over the division lead on September 21st and won the division by 1 1/2 games. The Mets then went on to beat Cincinnati in the National League Championship Series before falling to the Oakland A's four games to three in the World Series.
McGraw would renew the phrase as a member of the 1980 Phillies, who went on to win the World Series, with him pitching in four of the six World Series games. At one stretch in the season, McGraw allowed just three earned runs in 52 innings (0.52 ERA) over 33 games. To wrap up that season, McGraw and the Phillies went into Montreal where they had to win two of the three games to clinch the division. McGraw struck out five of the six hitters he faced in Friday night's win and then picked up the win on Saturday as the Phillies won in 12 innings on a two-run home run by Mike Schmidt that made them NL East Champions.
Next, were the Houston Astros in the NL Championship Series, where McGraw pitched in all five games of one of the greatest championship series of all time. McGraw earned two saves, but also took a tough loss in game three of the NLCS.
McGraw was simply amazing in the World Series. In addition to pitching in four of the games, he saved two of them and was the winning pitcher in game five. His historic strike out of Willie Wilson and leap into the air off the mound are one of the iconic scenes in Phillies history.
The last time that McGraw would reprise the "Ya gotta believe!" phrase came in 2003. During Spring Training, McGraw was working as an instructor with the Phillies when he didn't feel good and went to the hospital. McGraw was later diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent surgery. It was thought that doctors were able to get the entire tumor and McGraw would make a full recovery. Unfortunately, a small piece escaped detection.
In September, 2003, McGraw was well enough to not only attend the closing ceremonies for Veterans Stadium, where he had worked his magic, but also recreated the historic scene of him jumping off the mound at the end of the World Series. McGraw passed away on January 5, 2004.
McGraw left behind four children and two step-children. One of his sons, country singer, Tim McGraw wasn't acknowledged by the elder McGraw until his son was 17. The two had a rocky relationship, which they were able to patch up prior to McGraw's death. It was Tim McGraw, who scattered some of his father's ashes on the mound at Citizens Bank Park prior to Game Three of the 2008 World Series, which the Phillies won 5-4. McGraw also recorded a song inspired by his father's battle with the brain tumor. The song, "Live Like You Were Dyin'," speaks of a man attempting to live life to the fullest while battling a fatal diagnosis.
The Tug McGraw Foundation, set up by Tim McGraw as a tribute to his father, helps to "provide resources and hands-on support, foster understanding, promote awareness, and stimulate research and scientific collaboration to improve quality of life for people with brain-related trauma and tumors," according to the organization's web site. You can find out more about the foundation and donate at tugmcgraw.org.
Tug McGraw's career statistics
|PHI (10 yrs)||49||37||3.10||463||313||94||722.0||633||249||232||491|
|NYM (9 yrs)||47||55||3.17||361||228||86||792.2||685||279||350||618|