On October 21st, 1980 Tug McGraw threw a waist high fastball past an overmatched Willie Wilson delivering the first World Series title to the the Philadelphia Phillies after 97 years of trying. The win was the exclamation point on a six year process of remaking an organization from perennial losers to champions.
I've replayed that moment so many times, I can close my eyes and see it unfold frame by frame, always ending with Tug waiting for Mike Schmidt to arrive for their pre-planned celebration.
I've come to realize you can't really write something about Tug McGraw without a couple of funny stories and a smile.
In four days the Phillies will wear special green uniforms, in honor of Tug's favorite holiday: St. Patrick's Day. They may as well call them their "Tug McGraw specials" because it was Tug that showed up at the Phils spring training game in Clearwater on March 17th, 1981 wearing a uniform he had dyed green. When questioned by the umpires, he told them it was his teammates that were out of uniform.
Early in his career he went to 2 World Series with the Mets. At the time McGraw was asked how he planned to spend his World Series share, Tug replied: "Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other 10 percent I'll probably waste."
While his most effective pitch was appropriately the screwball, he actually had names for his various versions of his fastball: Peggy Lee ("Is that all there is?"); Bo Derek ("A nice little tail"); the Cutty Sark ("It sailed") and the Titanic (a sinker).
Tug died in December of 2003 from brain cancer. He put up a gallant fight, returning to Philadelphia for the closing ceremonies at Veterans Stadium. Ever the showman he re-enacted his famous victory celebration on the mound. Near the end of his life he shared he "had no regrets" adding many players front load their contracts; he front-loaded his life.