On Saturday, October 25, 2008, country superstar Tim McGraw threw out the ceremonial first ball of the third game of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Even more important, Tim McGraw made a quick and inconspicuous gesture that was actually honoring his late dad, Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw, Jr., by sprinkling some of the ashes on the pitcher’s mound.
Tug McGraw had a professional career with the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. However, he did not start out with baseball as a career in mind. Tug McGraw graduated from St. Vincent’s high school in Vallejo, CA in 1962. He thought that he would go on to be a barber. Because of this, he enrolled in a local barber college. However, he had very poor scissor technique. This is what earned him the nickname “Tug.”
Two years later Tug found himself signed to the New York Mets as an amateur free agent. The Mets first tried Tug as a starting pitcher. He did not have good statistics, but one of the victories of his as a starting pitcher was against the legendary Sandy Koufax which was the first time the Mets ever beat him.
In 1969, Tug McGraw became a full time relief pitcher with the New York Mets. He relied on a good screwball and the Mets went all the way to win the World Series, though Tug McGraw did not pitch in the Fall Classic.
In the late 1970s, Tug McGraw became one of the more successful closers in baseball. It was he who coined the New York Mets phrase, “You Gotta Believe!” Many times he was the only one to say and believe the phrase, but soon enough the rest of the team and the fans joined in saying and believing that the Mets could make it to the World Series.
In December of 1974, Tug McGraw was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. This may have been because he was having problems with his shoulder. However, it turned out that it was just a cyst and after a successful surgery, he recovered completely. He saved a game by striking out Willie Nelson and earning the Phillies their first World Series Championship.
Tug McGraw was not only known for his feats in baseball. He was also a very colorful character. When asked what he would do with his salary, he said, “Ninety percent, I’ll spend on good times, women, and Irish whiskey. The other ten percent, I’ll probably waste.” When asked if he preferred real grass or AstroTurf, he joked about the word grass meaning marijuana and said, “I don’t know – I never smoked AstroTurf.” Then when asked why he drove a 1954 Buick, he answered, “I like it because it plays old music.”
He was also known for his “frozen snowball theory” of pitching. He said, “Ten million years from now, when the sun burns out and earth is just a frozen snowball hurling through space, nobody’s going to care whether or not I got this guy out.”
Tim McGraw is one of Tug McGraw’s children. He was the only child from a brief romantic relationship with Betty d’Agostino. He did not acknowledge Tim as his son until Tim was 18, but they then developed a close relationship.
Of being at the game where Tim McGraw honored his father Tug, Pennsylvania native Taylor Swift (who performed the national anthem) said, “It’s monumental and special to me to be at the game where Tim’s honoring Tug.”
Tim Pays Tribute to Tug, Country Weekly Magazine