One of the most popular players in team history is signed on this day in 1964 when scout Roy Parlee gets the signature of 19-year-old lefthanded pitcher Tug McGraw on a contract.
Once a starter, McGraw carved out his niche as a reliever with the Mets. McGraw filled in when Jerry Koosman was injured in May of 1969, but returned to the pen with the latter returned. With a rotation that also included Tom Seaver, Don Cardwell, Jim McAndrew and at times Nolan Ryan, there was no place for McGraw.
McGraw, the last player to play for Casey Stengel, pitched in the NLCS against Atlanta, but did not pitch in the World Series against Baltimore. However, his role now set, McGraw emerged as a premier closer in the early 1970s, and was an emotional leader who coined the “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ slogan for the 1973 pennant-winning Mets.
In December of 1974, the Mets dealt McGraw to Philadelphia in a package deal that saw pitcher Mac Scarce, outfielder Del Unser and catcher John Stearns come to New York.
McGraw continued on as a top reliever and was a central figure during the Phillies’ 1980 World Series season.
When asked what he spent his money on during the World Series, McGraw answered: “Ninety percent I’ll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other ten percent I’ll probably waste.’’
McGraw was always a popular visitor to Shea Stadium after his retirement, although he worked for the Phillies as a guest instructor during spring training, when he was hospitalized with a brain tumor in 2003. Less than a year later, he died.
The Mets wore a “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ arm patch in honor of McGraw during the 2004 season, and McGraw’s son Tim, a country music star, recorded the song, “Live Like You Were Dying,’’ later that year.
Tim McGraw spread his father’s ashes on the pitcher’s mound at Citizen’s Bank Park prior to Game 3 of the 2008 World Series.