Tugger

Although I really like the Jethro Tull song “Living in the Past,” I’m not fond of the practice. It took me a long time to embrace the art of living in the moment and once I did, my life became a whole lot better.
That said, the past has been a big help during these stay-at-home days. The past as delivered by the MLB (Major League Baseball) network.
I admit I cannot watch every old game they put on. I mean, I just saw the Washington Nationals win the 2019 World Series, didn’t I?
But every now and then they’ll offer a classic. Like the other day when I got to see the Phillies win their first World Series ever in 1980. I tuned in late in the game, about the 7th inning, but since I knew what was coming, I stuck around. I wanted to see pitcher Tug McGraw strike out Willie Wilson of the Royals for the final out and then throw both hands in the air before being mobbed by his teammates.
I, myself, am a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but I also like the Phillies, and the Cubs (Ernie Banks’ team), and the St. Francisco Giants (Willie Mays’ team), and the Yankees (well, today’s Yankees), and the Dodgers (well, today’s Dodgers), and a host of individual players past and present no matter what team they played for (Warren Spahn, Al Kaline, Nellie Fox, Billy Williams, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Fred Lynn, Ken Griffey Jr. and dozens of others.)
On that list is Tug McGraw.
When I was a kid I saw Tug McGraw pitch for if not the first time ever in the Big Leagues, then one of his first times. Joe Guarnieri, whose son Jerry was playing on my Uncle Eddie’s Little League team at the time, invited Uncle Eddie to a Phillies game and ask him to bring me along. Jerry and his brother Joe were with us, too, along with their cousin Charlie Consagra. The Phillies were playing the Mets at old Connie Mack Stadium. I believe it was the 1965 season.
I remember Mets second baseman Chuck Hiller hitting a homer over that high right field wall.
And I remember Tug McGraw.
He was brought in out of the bullpen late in the game and when he got the last guy out in the inning, he strutted off the mound slapping his glove against his right thigh. Who knew at the time this would become his trademark?
“Remember that guy,” I recall Mr. Guarnieri saying. “He’s gonna be good.”
And was he ever. Good at playing baseball and good FOR baseball. It was Tug who coined the rallying cry “You gotta believe” for the ’73 Mets.
The Today show is on as I am writing and coincidentally they just announced Tim McGraw will be their next guest. Tim is a country music giant. He is also Tug’s son.
When Tug, at 59 years old, died of a cancerous brain tumor in 2004, Tim recorded the song “Live Like You Were Dying” in his honor. It was named the number one country song that year.

Ed Ackerman