Publish date:

The Good Life

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." --Don

COLOR PHOTO: CO RENTMEESTER (MCGRAW, METS) SOUL MAN McGraw was the spirit of two top teams.