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Tug's parents were divorced when he was seven, and his father raised the three boys—brother Dennis is 34—in another Bay Area city, Vallejo. Hank, a year and a half Tug's senior, was the original star athlete of the family, and he was idolized by his younger brother. Hank was the McGraw selected to play on all the top junior baseball teams in the area, but at his and their father's insistence, Tug was always included. He was an outfielder who yearned to be a pitcher, principally because Hank was a catcher. He finally got his chance, in rather typical Tuggian fashion, as a member of the St. Vincent's High School junior varsity team. "We had a coach, Father Feehan, who was about 80 and could hardly see," Tug says. "We also had a lefthanded pitcher, Bob Hay, who was having arm problems and wanted to play in the outfield. So before one game we switched uniform tops and he went to centerfield and I pitched the whole game. Father Feehan never knew the difference until I got up real close to him after the game."
McGraw was only 5'9" and 150 pounds when he completed his second season with the Vallejo J.C. varsity, but Hank, then playing for the Mets farm team in Salinas, Calif., persuaded the parent organization to give Tug a tryout in 1964. The next season he was pitching for Casey Stengel in New York. Four years later and 35 pounds heavier, he was the star reliever for the 1969 World Champions. And four years after that he was the "You Gotta Believe" spokesman for the 1973 Mets pennant winners.
Successful though he has been in baseball, McGraw is perpetually in search of a career after his career. He has gone to barber college, enrolled in hotel-management courses, served in the Marine reserve, started a comic strip (Scroogie) and written a sports column for a chain of suburban newspapers in the Philadelphia area. After the 1979 season, however, he and Phyllis decided to take stock. His ERA that year had climbed to a career-high 5.14, so it seemed clear something was amiss.
"I was running myself ragged with all these outside interests," Tug says. "Phyllis and I were passing each other in the doorway." At his wife's urging, he systematically divested himself of his outside distractions and dedicated himself to getting into shape for the 1980 season and reacquainting himself with his family. "It worked like a son of a gun," he says. His team won the World Series, and he will spend most of the winter "cuddling" with his family and sipping Irish whiskey by the fireside in his fine old house as the snow festoons the oaks and Japanese maples outside.
All of the Phillies rejoiced in their great victory but few more demonstratively than McGraw, who, weeping and laughing, doused Philadelphia Mayor William Green with champagne and embraced teammates, reporters, relatives, friends and even cops in the clubhouse celebration. He favored the assemblage with his Elvis Presley impersonation and liberally sprinkled the room with off-the-wall observations.
"W.C. Fields [who, on the whole, would rather be in Philadelphia than where he is] is probably down in his grave wishing he could celebrate with us, and I know Benjamin Franklin is turning over in his grave, and he's probably got a little flask down there and he's going to be sorry tomorrow because his gout's going to be acting up." It was about three in the morning before McGraw left the stadium, and he still had the family party ahead of him. But he was up in time for the parade and civic celebration the next day, advising Philadelphians at JFK Stadium that they need no longer take a backseat to New Yorkers and that the Big Apple could, in fact, "stick it."
His energy hadn't appreciably waned two days later, when, in a New York restaurant, he tried to put the experience in perspective. "There's no way we could have started off a new decade of baseball any better than this," he said. "I don't think I've ever been more proud to be a baseball player. In September and October, when we had all those close finishes, the great playoffs and the Series, the players were showing why baseball is the American pastime. I can't tell you how happy I am to be a part of it."
But he has, you know.