CD's Connect the Dots…McGraw Memories

Few players touched us like Tug McGraw; not only for what he did… but also for who he was and what he represented for us all…his humanity, the one true thing readers remember of him best. His recent death hit home, not only for me but also for many readers, and a fitting tribute would be to share some of their memories. He was a "real person", who happened to play baseball well. These memories capture that personality.

Mike Swain of Newark, DE writes…

"Hi CD! …As an ambassador for everything baseball, he came to see a game at Wilmington DE's Frawley's Stadium where the Blue Rocks play.  Throughout the entire game, the impromptu line for well-wishers and autograph-seekers remained quite lengthy as he spent a few seconds with each and every fan both young and old sharing smiles, handshakes, and signatures.  I was amazed by his endurance and continued interest in playing his part.


When I came back from hitting the concessions, I decided to swing by just to give a quick hello and move on.  As I was nearing, the opening notes that signal the start of the traditional mid-seventh theme came through the speakers.  Because everyone wanted to be near Mr. McGraw, there was a bit of commotion in the area that we were standing.  Much to my surprise, I found myself standing right next to him.  As everyone joined in singing, he noticed that I was trying very hard not to spill my expensive beverage on his shoes.  He smiled; we shared a brief laugh, the song ended, and everyone returned back to his or her seats.


It was obvious that he enjoyed himself on his visit to Wilmington and that he served his
post-career role with the same enthusiasm he carried onto the mound.  I hope today's players will follow his example and maintain the establishment of baseball by giving so much back as he did after their playing years are over.


He was a class act and will surely be missed by every baseball fan".


Thank you, Mike.  Tug was one of the most humane players in Philadelphia history. We always felt he was just a regular guy, and this made his appeal so tangible.


Here is another look at Tug from Louie D'Amico of Toledo, Ohio.

"Hey CD! … as a matter of fact, my greatest memory of Tugger was at the closing ceremonies at the Vet on September 28th (since I was too young to remember the World Series- I was 4). I watched Tugger get out of the car to a standing ovation after battling cancer all summer. He was wearing his famous #45. He walked over to the mound, threw his pitch to strike out Willie Wilson for the last time, threw his arms up and landed in Mike Schmidt's arms.


To me there is nothing better than reliving the most popular moment in Phillies history during the closing of one book and the start of a new one. Tug McGraw's love for the Phillies and the fans of Philadelphia will forever live on in my memory. He was such an awesome person who always said "Ya Gotta Believe"!


This was an awesome tribute to one of the greatest Phillies icon in our 100-year history. I actually signed his guest book on his official website this afternoon ( and offered my condolences. I even got a tear in my eye. I was so praying for him to win his battle with cancer, it's a tragedy".


Thousands shared Louie's great memory, and the tears he shed. Tug was just so real, he was the common man dressed up in a Phillie uniform. He was you, or I. You captured it well, Louie, thanks!                                                          

And here's a fan from Pennsylvania,


"Hi CD… Philly is awash in Tug memories this week--my favorite is of course the final out of the 1980 WS--another was the parade comments he made-New York can take this and stick it comment. Another is the courage with which he faced this year--he maintained the you gotta believe as recently as 3 weeks ago when it was obvious he was losing ground. Another favorite was on the Vet closing day when he was the final piece of the day's activities--there wasn't a dry eye in the house for much of the festivities but especially where he was concerned--the place just roared


I guess most in Philly loved him because he got the final out for the WS--but he just seemed to enjoy and have such fun at it--players now seem to be too serious and need that little boy in them to enjoy it a bit. On one of the bits they showed today he said he was so lucky that the baseball gods let him have the ball for that special moment and that he was able to come through


Bill Conlin was on DNL today--his favorite memory was a favor Tug did--Conlin had a son in semi pro ball --somehow Conlin asked Tug to make an appearance--which he said he was only half serious about--he came and pitched--against Dickie Noles--he seemed quite touched by it--seems he said yes to most requests


Mike Schmidt's story was that they --he and Tug had figured they would take the series and they both wanted to be on the cover of SI--so they conspired that Tug would wait for Schmidt so that he could jump on him in celebration--and that picture is still around


Larry Christenson, still a very good friend said Tug came and announced to he and Carlton and Roman Gabriel--then QB for the Eagles--that they should jog to Clearwater to ST--Gabe said his knees wouldn't take it but could bike--which they did--LC said it was the trip of a lifetime


Philly is different than the west coast where sports are concerned--Schill said it best--it's entertainment in Az--it's a way of life in the East. Philly loves it's athletes to play hard--have no pretensions--and to enjoy themselves a bit--and he did all those and more.


Bill Giles said he knows of no other athlete that was so loved --not just one but two cities


Nothing can top the closing of the Vet--there wasn't a dry eye for all two hours of the festivities--but Tug at the end was the most emotional because it was evident how sick he was--face all puffy from Cortisone--in ten years that will probably be my strongest memory


Mary Ellen

Exton, PA

Mary… perhaps you captured best the true nature of the Philadelphia fan, and why they loved Tug so much. Play with passion, play hard, and play with a desire to give your best all the time.  Thank you for the wonderful memories.

Dominick Patrone's Memories of Tug.


"He used to write a comic strip called "Scroogie" which appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News. It was about a wacky screwball pitcher whose manager with the team was real gruff. I think the team was called the Pets. Anyway there are 2 strips that I distinctly remember. 1. it was raining hard and the players didn't think they were going to play, and all of a sudden the manager yells at the rain to "STOP", and then I forget what the punch line was and 2. McGraw appeared in the comic strip as himself and 1 player asked another player why he would want to do that. All of a sudden McGraw comes up to bat and the frame says McGraw rips one 300, 400, 500 etc. and to see the ball fly into oblivion. He also had a van at the time and all the comic strip characters were painted on the van. He used to pop the bottoms out of cups and then put the cups up to his eyes like binoculars, along with lots of other antics. What I'm saying is, we should always maintain our sense of humor 'cause sometimes it's all we have left. The Tugger did just that. If everyone approached life in the same way, the world would be a much better place".                                        


I do remember that comic strip, Dom, and the fact that a baseball player would take the time to write a comic strip cartoon again demonstrates the humanity of the man. Although deeply serious on the hill, he never took life so seriously that he couldn't laugh at himself!  Thanks, my friend, for the memory.

I have two favorite memories of Tug McGraw and interestingly enough, they both took place in 1977. The first occurred on September 27, 1977… the day the Phils clinched the National League East title.

The Phils were playing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field and leading 12-4 entering the bottom of the 8th inning. Mcgraw relieved starter Larry Christenson with the bases loaded, and by the time McGraw retired the side, 5 runs had crossed the plate and the score stood 12-9. 

Shortstop Larry Bowa, now the Phils manager, was screaming at Mcgraw to get serious and not blow the game. He was also screaming at his teammates to score more runs, which they did. McGraw retired the Cubs in the bottom of the 9th inning and the Phils had a division clinching 15-9 victory.

Shortly thereafter, McGraw made his famous description about Bowa. Tugger said his greatest baseball memory was "watching Larry Bowa play."  He then said his worst baseball memory was "listening to Larry Bowa talk… incessantly!" 

Needless to say, McGraw and Bowa were the best of friends and Bowa always laughed at this oh, so honest recollection of how he was perceived by his teammate.

My other vivid memory of Tug came on one of the saddest days I can recall as a Phillie fan. It was the evening after Black Friday, the day the Phils lost a pennant in 10 minutes.

For those too young to recall, the Phils were leading the Dodgers 5-3 with but one strike to go, a strike they never got. Ten minutes later the Dodgers had a 6-5 win, and the series momentum shifted forever.

Though a beaten club by now, the Phils met the Dodgers on a cold, rainy Saturday night, and the Dodgers led 4-1 entering the top of the 8th inning. Everyone had seemingly given up… except Tug.  After retiring the Dodgers in order, he began slapping his glove against his leg, yelling uncontrollably and extolling his teammates to give it one more try.

I remember that I began to cry, as if his emotional release became mine. At that moment, I honestly believed the Phils would rally, and they nearly did!  They loaded the bases before Dodger hurler Tommy John got out of the jam.

For one brief moment, for one tiny space of time, McGraw's unbridled enthusiasm had actually rekindled mine!  I was on that field with Tug, feeding off his emotion, even at this most painful time. It was a moment I never forgot, and it has stayed with me even today.

They say that a person is not long remembered for how they died, but for how they lived.  Perhaps he understood this as well as anyone possibly could.

Tug McGraw may have died too young at 59, yet the lives he touched in that short time will live on and on. Think not to how he died but to how he lived… oh, how he lived!


Columnist's Note: I welcome suggestions, questions and comments. Please send them to and I will respond! CD from the Left Coast

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