“You Gotta Believe,” the rallying cry for the Mets’ miracle pennant drive in 1973, was coined by flaky lefthanded reliever Tug McGraw. Sixteen times in the last month of the season, he would charge off the mound slapping his glove on his right thigh, screaming at no one in particular while racking up 11 saves and four victories. While McGraw, a bullpen mainstay of the Mets for nine seasons and the Phillies for ten, was one of the main reasons the Mets were able to capture the NL flag, he was also one of the reasons they had to catch up. He was going through a horrible slump, blowing leads and getting his pitching and pride pounded. The Mets, ultimately the only team to finish over .500 for the season in the NL East, began their climb in last place, 12-1/2 games out. By August 30, they were 6-1/2 out and McGraw was 0-6. McGraw returned to form, and the Mets reached first place to stay on September 21. McGraw finished the season with 25 saves.
McGraw’s best year was actually 1972, when he posted an 11-4 record with 27 saves and a 1.70 ERA. He also was credited with the victory in the 1972 All-Star Game, giving up only one hit and striking out four in working the final two innings.
His shining moment as a Phillie came in the 1980 World Series. In the fifth game, McGraw struck out the Royals Amos Otis with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to preserve a 4-3 victory. In the sixth and final game, in Philadelphia, McGraw squeezed out of bases-loaded jams in the final two innings and got the save to give the Phillies their first World Championship. It was his third WS save lifetime, and his five LCS saves is a record. He retired with 180 saves.
McGraw was given the nickname Tug by his mother, because he used to tug when she breast-fed him.