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Tug McGraw was a professional baseball pitcher, notably with the Mets and Phillies, and father of country star Tim McGraw.
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Athlete. Born Frank Edwin McGraw Jr. on Aug. 30, 1944, in Martinez, California. McGraw was nicknamed "Tug" by his mother, Mable McKenna, because of his over-aggressive style of breast-feeding as a baby. The nickname stuck with the youngster for the rest of his life. Tug McGraw grew up in the working-class San Francisco Bay Area suburbs of Martinez and Vallejo, where he was both a baseball and football standout in high school and junior college. He signed on with the Mets in 1964, when he was 19 years old.
After just one year pitching in the minor leagues for Mets affiliates in rookie and single-A ball, McGraw made the big league club out of spring training in 1965. He made his debut as a relief pitcher but soon joined the Mets' starting rotation, showing some promise but finishing the season with a disappointing 2-7 record.Over the next few years, McGraw did not appear to be marching down the traditional path toward sports superstardom. He fulfilled his Vietnam-era military service obligation by enlisting as a reserve rifleman in the United States Marine Corps. McGraw never served overseas, but underwent extensive military training over the course of his six-year reserve commitment.
Meanwhile, his baseball career began to stagnate. The Mets, a pitiable outfit since their debut as an expansion team in 1962, still weren't very good. McGraw struggled to pitch a 2-9 record in his 1966 sophomore campaign. Early in the 1967 season, McGraw was sent down to the minors, a tough blow for a pitcher who had jumped straight past double-A and triple-A ball in his initial rise to the majors. After laboring for two years with the Jacksonville Suns in Florida, McGraw won a call-up back to the Mets in 1969, joining the team's relief rotation just in time to play a bit part in one of the most remarkable seasons in major league history.
When those "Amazin' Mets" surged into first place in the National League East in September 1969, it was a big deal; it was literally the first time in the franchise's short, and previously rather pathetic, history that the Mets had ever led the standings. The team won 39 of its final 50 regular-season games, and carried that momentum into the playoffs, knocking off the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles to secure the Mets' first-ever world championship. Pitching middle relief, McGraw made just one appearance in those playoffs, earning no decision in a win over the Braves in the National League Championship.
Over the next few years, though, McGraw's pitching grew stronger and he became one of the Mets' most important players as a dominant closer.
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