100 Greatest Phillies: 23 – Tug McGraw – Phillies Nation
100 Greatest Phillies

100 Greatest Phillies: 23 – Tug McGraw

Tug McGraw
Relief Pitcher

Career w/Phillies: 722 IP / 49-37 / 94 SV / 3.10 ERA / 491 K

On December 3, 1974, the New York Mets traded beleaguered but star reliever Tug McGraw to the Phillies. Instantly, the Phillies became a contender. Moreover, McGraw began his 30-year relationship with Philadelphia, a relationship that almost every Phillies fan holds dear. Tugger was an immediate impact upon arrival, recording a 2.98 ERA in more than 100 innings for the 1975 Phils, a team on the rise. He was even better in 1976, recording a 2.50 ERA for the newly postseasoned pinstripes. McGraw continued to perform well until 1979, when everything seemed to fall apart for a team destined for a title. But Tugger rebounded in a big way in 1980, posting a 1.46 ERA in more than 90 innings, striking out 75 while walking 23. His performance helped take the Phils to the World Series, and of course, the moment all Philadelphians will cherish: His strikeout of Willie Wilson and subsequent magic leap into the air, arms raised as high as the moon above. McGraw had a couple years in the tank, but his innings dwindled considerably. He retired in 1984 and joined WPVI as a reporter, showing off his trademark humor and Irish spirit. Sadly, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2003, and though he was able to recreate his famous pitch before the Vet was demolished, he died in early 2004. Just before game three of the 2008 World Series, his son, Tim McGraw, spread Tug’s ashes onto the mound at Citizens Bank Park. The ol’ Irish luck rubbed off: The Phillies won the World Series.

Comment: An adopted son. A true legend. When Tug was at his best the Phils were, too. He is the gold standard for relievers in Philadelphia, and to many, a gold standard for human beings.


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  1. Fuhs

    March 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    And he had a #1 song written about him.

  2. Good Night Joe Carter

    March 4, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    His screwball was magical. One of those pitches you just don’t see anymore.

  3. T Marty

    March 4, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Does anyone know where i can pick up his book Screwgie? it was a comic about a baseball team. i had it when i was a kid, but i think one of the elders threw it out.

  4. James Kay

    March 4, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Tim’s arguments are most persuasive. # 23 is a good spot for him. Good screwball pitchers are as rare as knuckleballers. I can only off handedly think of one other effective Phillies screwballer, Jack Baldshun. He was a right handed reliever from the 1964 team who played 5 years with the Phils. Can anyone supply a more complete list of Phillies screwballers and knucklers?

    If Tug is ever enshrined in the HOF, should he be immortalized in a Phillies or a Mets cap?

  5. Jason B.

    March 4, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Best quote by a ball player… When Tug was traded from the Mets, a reporter asked him if he preffered to play on grass or astro-turf. Tugs reply, “I don’t know, I’ve never smoked astro-turf.”

  6. Jim

    March 4, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    i cant wait for the line of met “fans” to come in and claim hes a met

  7. the lopez!

    March 4, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    tug mcgraw was the most likeable member of that championship team.

    what a character off the field as well.

    met fans, leave this one alone. he belongs to the phils

  8. rob

    March 4, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I can’t say I remember Screwgie, but I do remember his children’s book: Lumpy!


  9. phillyjoe

    March 4, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    We miss you Tug!

  10. BurrGundy

    March 4, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Two screwballers — Fernando Valenzuela pitched for the Phils for part of a season at the end of his career. Also, though he did not pitch for the Phils, Warren Spahn was a noteworthy screwballer and the greatest lefty of all time who beat the Phils on more than a few occasions.

  11. MikeMc26

    March 4, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    This story my uncle told me has made me a Tug fan for life. So, My uncle is a plumber and Tug hired him to work at his house at the end of the regular season in 1980, which is cool enough by itself (I always thought he hired my uncle because of his Irish last name haha). My uncle and his apprentice were working in Tug’s basement and every morning Tug used to bring them down a box of doughnuts and coffee when they were taking a coffee break. Tug and the two guys would BS and have doughnuts and coffee for a while before they got back to work.

    They worked at Tug’s house all through the playoffs and the World Series. We all know how the Phils won, but when my uncle went back to work a few days after the Series he brought Tug a case of whiskey to thank Tug for the championship and for being so nice. I have always thought that it was so cool that Tug knew what it meant to be a regular working guy and took time out of his day to so the guys who worked for him that he appreciated them.

  12. Brian Michael

    March 4, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Here is a video I shot of the Tugger recreating the #1 moment at the Vet after the final game there:


  13. James Kay

    March 4, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Braves teammates Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette both no hit the Phils in 1960 within the span of a month. Spahny was the undisputed master of changing speeds who also used the knuckleball starting in 1963. Burdette was both a spitball and screwball artist. Check out the following link for an interesting list of knucklers. Some former Phillies I recognized include Dutch Leonard (1947 – 48), Bobby Shantz (1964), Ryne “Coke Bottle Glasses” Duren (1963 – 65), Darold Knowles (1966), Jim Konstanty (1948 – 54), Hard Luck Barry Lersch (1969 – 1973), Steve Ridzik (1950 -55 & 1966), & Schoolboy Rowe (1943 -49).


  14. Jim

    March 5, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Was at that game michael. I wasnt even born in 1980 and it bought a tear to my eye. they ‘bought him in from the bullpen’ from a car, because he could hardly walk at that point. he died less than a year after the game

  15. Phan in TN

    March 5, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Well written piece, Tim.

    I do think that perhaps the assorted Mets fans that frequent this blog can claim Tug too. Only a Mister Grumpy Miner speaks eloquently enough to be tolerated as a Mets fan.

    The mention of the Tugger or John Vukevich makes every Phillies Phan stop for a moment and remember.

    I hope he rests in peace.

  16. Chutley

    March 5, 2009 at 10:00 am

    mike that must have been quite the clog if your uncle was there that long

  17. James Kay

    March 5, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    The famous screwballer Lew Burdette not only no hit the Phillies in 1960, he played for them in 1965. It appears that pure screwballers are a much rarer breed than knucklers. In today’s game, thay are nearly extinct.

  18. ryan

    March 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    well. my top ten is shot

  19. ryan

    March 5, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    not only was tugger an all-time great phillie on the field. but he was also one of the nicest , most genuine good guys you could ever come across.

    best quote from tugger,

    Q: do you prefer grass or astroturf

    A: I don’t know, I never smokes astroturf.

    that was the real tugger too. he always smelled like weed, even in his old age. big Jameson drinker too. and he also started one of the great phillies traditions by dying his uniform green on st. patrick’s day.

  20. ryan

    March 5, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    another great tug quote

    “Ninety percent of my salary I’ll spend on good times, women, and Irish Whiskey. The other ten percent I’ll probably waste.”

  21. ashmidt

    March 7, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    along with tim mccarver, a true credit to the irish race, erin go braugh.

  22. jdogg

    July 1, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Had the opportunity to hang out with Tug a few times about 6 mos. before he was diagnosed. He had met a friend of mine who had something Tug would enjoy, and Tug actually came back to the house with us. It was not astroturf. He said one of the highlights of his career was making contact off Sandy Kofax, he wanted to patent his srewball grip and he divulged the origin of the “Bake” in McBride’s name – again it was not astroturf. Regarding the DH he said what the American League plays shouldn’t even be called baseball. He asked my friend what would be the right pitch in an 0-2 count. My friend said something and Tug yelled, “No, you go right for his head!” – classic. One of the times we saw Tug at the Plumstead in Media Joe Frasier walked in – unbelievably cool Philly sports moment. He is missed by many.

  23. WatchFrasierOnlineFree

    March 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    My husband travels for just a living. A lot more times than he would care to count, his company has booked him into a hotel which doesn’t provide cable Tv. Last year, whilst surfing the web, he came across a site the allows him to Watch Frasier Online. Now he has one thing to accomplish on those nights when he is bored. This makes me incredibly happy as there had been nights when he would go out searching for something to do. He would regularly spend additional out about the town than he had made that day. His job is to bring cash in, not spend a lot more than he makes.

  24. Brian Palmer

    April 20, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I was around seven years old, when Tugger caught a line drive with his bare hand…just to then double up a runner on base! Oh! He kept on pitching too! Classic and tough.

  25. Van Lawry

    May 10, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Very interesting blog post thank you for writing it I just added your blog to my favorites and will check back 🙂 By the way this is a little off subject but I really like your web page layout.

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