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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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In the 1973 season, the Mets climbed from last place to win their division, only to lose the World Series in a seven-game heartbreaker. Despite the loss, McGraw became a fan favorite. A first-time All-Star, he also coined the Mets' signature catchphrase, ''Ya Gotta Believe,'' helping to inspire the team to a hot finish and unlikely division title. McGraw always had a way with words and, following in the tradition of fellow New York baseball legend Yogi Berra,
became a master of the quotable quip. "Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey," McGraw once said, when a reporter asked what he'd do with his salary. "The other 10 percent I'll probably waste."
In 1974, the Mets traded McGraw to the Phillies. With McGraw continuing to pitch quality innings in relief, his teams captured National League East Division titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978, but lost in the first round of the playoffs each time. In 1980, however, Philadelphia made its breakthrough, winning its first-ever World Series title. The World Series also saw McGraw's greatest individual moment as a player: When he struck out Kansas City Royals batter Willie Wilson with bases loaded in the ninth inning to secure the championship-clinching final out. Upon throwing the famous pitch, McGraw threw up his arms in an iconic victory pose.
In 1985, after pitching 19 big-league seasons, McGraw announced his retirement from the game on Valentine's Day, which he felt was an appropriate date for the occasion. ''I've had a love affair with baseball," he said. "The game stole my heart, and I was never a jilted suitor.'' He retired with a career record of 96-92, with 180 saves and a 3.14 earned run average.
In his post-baseball life, McGraw worked as a children's book author, color commentator, consultant and television personality. He also reconnected with a long-lost son, the product of a short-lived relationship he'd had while a minor-league ballplayer. His son, the country music singer Tim McGraw, did not discover his father's real identity until he was 11 years old, when he was shocked to find a birth certificate listing baseball idol Tug McGraw as his dad. Though Tug did not officially acknowledge his paternity until Tim was 17 years old, the two later became close. Tug was also the father of actor Mark McGraw.
In March 2003, while working as a coach at Phillies spring training, McGraw fell ill and underwent emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor. The doctors discovered that the tumor was malignant and inoperable, giving McGraw just three weeks to live. Refusing to accept the grim prognosis, son Tim McGraw and daughter-in-law Faith Hill arranged for Tug to receive treatment at a state-of-the-art cancer center in Florida. McGraw faced his illness with his trademark optimism and humor. ''I'm not fearful, I have confidence,'' McGraw told reporters of his treatment. ''I think that comes from a certain amount of positive attitude.''
With his cancer still progressing, McGraw made a final visit to the Mets' Shea Stadium in July 2003, receiving a standing ovation from fans.
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