Died After a 10-month battle with a brain tumor, two-time World Series reliever Tug McGraw, 59, who was, as he loved to say, "lefthanded in every way." McGraw was the inspiration for the Mets' team that fought from last place to the Series over the final 10 weeks of the 1973 season. During that run Tug became famous for screaming "Ya Gotta Believe" after each of the team's improbable wins—many of which he closed, celebrating the final out by bounding off the mound and slapping his glove exuberantly against his thigh.
Traded to the Phillies before the '75 season, he was the jokester on a team of straight guys. (Asked by a reporter whether he preferred grass to Astroturf, he replied, "I don't know. I've never smoked Astroturf.") When he struck out the Royals' Willie Wilson for the last out of the '80 Series, he jumped up and down on the mound until third baseman Mike Schmidt tackled him—fulfilling a promise he'd made to Schmidt, who had complained the pitcher and catcher were always alone in the game-ending photo.
After retiring in 1984 with 180 career saves, McGraw bounced through several jobs (TV reporter, bank pitchman) and, after two divorces and numerous bad investments, was almost broke when Phillies manager Larry Bowa hired last year to work with young pitchers during spring training. There Tug collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed the brain tumor and gave him three weeks to live.
He lived longer—and made public appearances in Philadelphia last fall—largely because of the financial help of his son Tim, the country music superstar. Tim's mother had a brief affair with Tug in the '60s, and Tug didn't embrace him as his child until Tim was 17 But the two were close in recent years, and Tug died in Tim's cabin near Nashville. "How often can a man given three weeks to live call himself lucky," Tug told SI a month ago. "I got to play a game I loved, got to meet unbelievable people, got to enjoy fans. To top it off, I have a son who would not only forgive me for my bad acts over the first half of his life but would step in and make sure I got the best care in the world when things went south. That, my friend, makes me a lucky man."