Fan’s take: Former Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw was a great Irishman

Honoring the beloved Frank Edwin McGraw remains an evergreen topic whenever St. Patrick's Day is celebrated. Images of the 'Tugger' slapping his glove against his leg, peering over his right shoulder at the catcher, throwing his famous screwball, or striking out Willie Wilson at 11:29 p.m. on October 21, 1980, are eternal.

You didn't need to be Irish to appreciate McGraw's sense of humor, or to mourn his loss when he passed away seven years ago from cancer. He did not have the chance to see the Phillies recapture the World Series crown in 2008, but all fans knew that he and Richie Ashburn were watching from their deluxe sky box when that happened.

Four leaf clover.
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The native Californian was signed by the Mets in 1964. Known mostly as a reliever, he actually started 36 games for New York between 1965 and 1974. He was not a significant factor during their World Championship year of 1969.

He was a key part of the Mets 1973 World Series team and is believed to have created his inspirational slogan, "Ya Gotta Believe", during that season. He saved 25 regular season games and pitched well against the Cincinnati Reds and against the Oakland A's in postseason action. The A's, who were in the middle of three consecutive championship runs, beat the Mets in seven games.

Following the 1974 season, McGraw was traded to the Phillies. He was to stand on a World Series mound again, throwing his most famous strike during the 1980 Fall Classic. His ninth-inning pitch ended the sixth game and earned Philadelphia its first World Series championship.

The 1984 season was the two-time All-Stars' last in the majors. He then went on to work in local television and to serve in various capacities within the Phillies organization. Tug would always don the green, while working as a coach in spring training, on St. Patrick's Day. Like other teams, the Phillies also generally wear green uniforms during those mid-March games.

The 1999 Phillies Wall of Fame honoree was working on a biography titled, Ya Gotta Believe!, before his death in 2004. The book was then touchingly completed by his son, country superstar Tim McGraw.

Frank McGraw openly showed his passion for baseball throughout his career. Today, Tug's shamrock spirit is still present in the hearts of all who love the game.

Growing up in the Philadelphia region during the late 1970's and early 1980's naturally enabled everyone to become Phillies fans. My friends and I learned the game on little league fields, through trading cards, and by playing APBA. That era became an important part of our young lives. This new golden era has sparked a resurgence of baseball passion in everyone who never forgot the feeling of those old school days.

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Updated Monday, Mar 21, 2011