"You gotta believe!"
Those were the words that embodied the spirit of Tug McGraw, the relief-pitching specialist who led the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies to their only world championship. On January 5 the 59-year-old McGraw passed away from brain cancer after a courageous ten-month battle, but the image of his victorious leap after Game Six of the 1980 World Series will live forever in the minds and hearts of Phillies fans.
The "You gotta believe" spirit goes back to 1973, when McGraw pitched for the New York Mets and pushed them to the brink of their second world championship before falling in seven games to the mighty Oakland Athletics. He brought the phrase, and the winning spirit, with him when he was traded to Philadelphia following the 1974 season.
McGraw spent part of the 1980 season on the disabled list, but returned to the club to post an 0.52 ERA in August and September and a 5-0 mark with five saves in the final weeks. In the World Series he was masterful, pitching himself into and out of tremendous jams in both Games Five and Six.
While McGraw will be remembered most vividly for the historic 1980 season he was in fact victorious in many other campaigns as well. He won a world championship with the Mets in 1969 and went to the postseason with the Phillies in 1976, 1977, 1978, the strike-shortened 1981 and the pennant-winning year of 1983.
McGraw enjoyed celebrity after baseball as the father of country and western star Tim McGraw, doing commercials and personal appearances with his son. For the past two seasons he was a pitching instructor with the Phillies.