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A Difficult Day
This is exactly what Buck Showalter was worried about when he told Team USA Manager Mark DeRosa to be sure his players returned to the Mets safely. All of us at Here’s The Pitch wish Edwin a speedy recovery and return to form:
… And A Reader Reacts
“I can’t say that I’m surprised with a Mets’ WBC injury. But the Edwin Diaz news is devastating. Obviously, it puts the season’s post-season target in jeopardy.
I was waiting for something with the players at WBC - a possible shoe to drop. Hopefully only a short recovery period for a strain, etc. But, with Diaz, far worst than expected. Ironic and preventable.
Maybe the MLB will listen to fans and more serious - less money hungry voices - in the future.”
— Paul Froehlich, MPH, New York City
Did you know…
Injuries to Edwin Diaz (knee surgery) and Freddie Freeman (hamstring) underline the fact that the timing of the World Baseball Classic interferes with spring training and preparation for the regular season . . .
After losing a club-record 107 games last year, Washington had hoped rookie pitcher Cade Cavalli would help spark a rebound — before he was idled by Tommy John surgery that will sideline him for the year . . .
In a classic comedown, controversial right-hander Trevor Bauer has agreed to a one-year, $4MM deal with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League . . .
Unless David Peterson steps up to replace injured Jose Quintana, the Mets will lack a lefty in their rotation . . .
The Yankees are down five pitchers, with Carlos Rodon, Frankie Montas, Nestor Cortes, Lou Trivino, and Tommy Kahnle all ailing . . .
The Marlins did well to land veteran first baseman Yuli Gurriel, a former batting champion, and slick-fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias on minor-league contracts after spring training had already started . . .
Houston is frustrated at its inability to sign Framber Valdez and Kyle Tucker to long-term contracts before they can explore free agency this fall . . .
Atlanta infield coach Ron Washington insists Ozzie Albies won’t return to shortstop, his original position, after developing into an All-Star at second base.
Remembering Tug McGraw on Saint Patrick’s Day
By Matthew Veasey
Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. And if you know anything about Frank Edwin ‘Tug’ McGraw, then you know that this is the perfect day to look back on the career of the Little Leprechaun of baseball.
Do you remember where you were at 11:29 PM ET on the night of October 21, 1980? I was 18 years old and standing in the tiny living room of my small one-bedroom apartment in South Philly, glued to the television as my beloved Philadelphia Phillies battled the Kansas City Royals in Game Six of the World Series.
Just a little more than two miles away, 36-year-old Tug McGraw was standing on the pitcher’s mound at Veterans Stadium. The Phillies, who had never won a world championship in the 97-year history of the ball club to that point, were leading Kansas City by three games to two and held a 4-1 lead with two outs in the ninth inning of that Game Six.
At the plate was Willie Wilson, the Royals’ 25-year-old left-fielder, who had hit .325 and would win both an American League Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award that year. The Royals had the bases loaded, so Wilson represented the go-ahead run.
McGraw and Wilson battled the count to 1-2. On the NBC television broadcast, former big-leaguer Joe Garagiola summed up what was about to take place, leaving the moment to the sounds of the ballpark: “The crowd will tell you what happens!”
The 15-year veteran southpaw McGraw, mostly a junk-baller whose specialty was the screwball, opted in this pivotal moment to fire a fastball. That clearly fooled Wilson, who swung late and through the pitch for the final out.
As the crowd exploded at the Vet and the Phillies mobbed one another on the mound, my friends and I watching from my apartment roared out cheers, spilled some beers, and hugged one another. Nearly a century of futility and pent-up frustration for the Phillies and their fans would be released on the streets of Philadelphia over the ensuing hours and days.
For that and so many wonderful memories provided during his decade-long career in Phillies pinstripes, but especially for that Fall Classic moment, Tug McGraw has always been one of the most beloved athletes in the history of the City of Brotherly Love.
Frank Edwin McGraw was born on August 30, 1944, just north of San Francisco, California, a little more than two months after the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France began to turn the tide of World War II in favor of the Allied forces.
For the book “A Magic Summer: The Amazin’ Story of the 1969 New York Mets”, McGraw explained to author Stanley Cohen that his famous nickname had come from his mother based on the way that he had nursed as an infant: “He’s a real tugger”, she would say. However, McGraw and his two brothers would be raised by their father. Their mom battled mental illness and abandoned the family, leading to a divorce when the children were still young.
His two older brothers played baseball, with older brother Hank talented enough to sign as a catcher with the expansion New York Mets in 1961. Tug would follow in their footsteps, going on to sign with the Mets himself at age 19 after graduating from Vallejo Junior College.
McGraw would make his big-league debut with the Mets in 1965 at just age 20, thanks mainly to what was known as the “bonus baby rule” in Major League Baseball during those days. Any player who had signed for $4,000 or more had to be carried on the big-league roster for an entire season or risk being taken by another club.
Having enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves after high school, McGraw reported to the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island following that MLB rookie campaign. Upon graduation he was assigned to continue training at Camp Lejeune where, in his own words, he became a “trained killer” as a rifleman using an M14 rifle and M60 machine gun. While working out in the corps, McGraw hurt his arm, relegating him to just 11 games in the minors and another 15 in the bigs during the 1966 season.
It was while at an Instructional League assignment following that 1966 campaign that he learned what would become his bread-and-butter pitch, the screwball, from veteran pitcher Ralph Terry. McGraw enjoyed solid 1967 and 1968 seasons but was still left unprotected in the Expansion Draft. Thankfully for the Mets, he would not be selected by either San Diego or Montreal.
In 1969, McGraw finally reached the big leagues to stay. That year, at age 24, he appeared in 42 games, including making four starts. He fashioned a 2.24 ERA, allowing just 89 hits over 100.1 innings with 92 strikeouts. As those ‘Miracle Mets’ went all the way to their first-ever World Series championship, McGraw also appeared in his first postseason game.
McGraw would pitch with the Mets for the first nine years of what became a 19-year big-league career. He went 47-55 with a 3.17 ERA and 1.306 WHP over 361 games, including 36 starts. McGraw recorded 86 saves, allowing 685 hits across 792.2 innings with 618 strikeouts with New York. He was also a 1972 National League All-Star and received MVP votes in both 1972 and 1973.
With the lefty turning 30 years of age and battling shoulder problems, the Mets included him as part of a six-player trade with the NL East Division rival Philadelphia Phillies in December of 1974. Those shoulder issues turned out to be easily corrected by a minor surgical procedure, and McGraw would go on to pitch the final decade of his career in Philly.
His first full season with the Phillies would result in a 9-6 record and 14 saves. McGraw made 56 appearances despite missing the first month as he recovered from that minor procedure, allowing just 84 hits over 102.2 innings and earning his second NL All-Star team berth.
Over his 10 seasons in Philadelphia, McGraw would make 463 appearances, including three starts. During that unforgettable 1980 campaign, he finished fifth in the National League Cy Young Award voting for what proved the best season of his career. Over 57 games, he went 5-4 with a 1.46 ERA, 0.921 WHIP and 20 saves. He allowed 62 hits over 92.1 innings with 75 strikeouts.
During that 1980 postseason, McGraw cemented his place forever in the hearts of Phillies fans. He appeared in four of the six Fall Classic games against Kansas City, winning one and saving two of the Phils’ four victories with a 1.17 ERA.
In 1999, 15 years after his playing career had ended, McGraw’s place in Phillies franchise lore was forever cemented when the club enshrined him on the Wall of Fame. Just over four years later his life would come to a tragic early end in January 2004 at just age 59 following a battle with brain cancer.
The summer prior, McGraw re-enacted his dramatic final pitch of that 1980 World Series as the team celebrated the closing of Veterans Stadium. The appearance allowed Phillies fans one final celebration with ‘The Tugger’ at the place where he had brought them so many fond memories.
All three of Tug’s sons, including famed country music superstar (and 1883 TV star) Tim McGraw, have leprechaun tattoos in honor of their father. Earlier this week, Tim explained the tattoos in an appearance on the ‘Rob & Holly’ podcast: “I like it. My brothers both have one too because my Dad liked leprechauns. He had a leprechaun necklace he wore, so that’s why I got it. That’s why my brothers have it as well.”
May the luck of the Irish be with you and yours on this Saint Patrick’s Day!
LINK: Tug McGraw strikeout to end the 1980 World Series:
Matt Veasey is the voice behind @PhilliesBell on Twitter, the most interactive Philadelphia Phillies news and history social media account on the Internet. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a St. Patty’s Day Look at Best Irish-American Ballplayers
By Dan Schlossberg
Playing major-league baseball takes a lot of skill. It also takes a lot of luck, such as avoiding illness, injury, or other events that can interfere with a career.
On this St. Patrick’s Day 2023, here’s a look at how the Luck of the Irish helped so many players, past and present.
Let’s start with the Baseball Hall of Fame.
John McGraw, who managed the New York Giants for 30 years, heads the list. Brash, arrogant, and argumentative, he hit .334 as a rough-and-tumble third baseman of the Deadball Era but was far better known as a manager who would do anything for a win.
He roomed with his polar opposite — pitcher Christy Mathewson — in an odd pairing of player and manager but had no problem leading his team to three world championships.
The best Irish hitter? Maybe Ed Delahanty, one of five brothers who made the big leagues. A right-fielder with a strong arm, Ed’s calling card was his bat. In a 16-year career that started in 1888, he hit .346 with a .411 on-base average and .505 slugging percentage while playing for the Philadelphia Quakers, the Phillies, the Cleveland Infants (a nickname even worse than Guardians) and the Washington Senators. He hit .400 or better three times.
Another Irish star of the 19th century was pitcher Tony Mullane, a Cork native who could also box, roller-skate, and ice-skate. A handsome lad who attracted considerable female attention, he won at least 30 games for five successive seasons — quite an achievement for anyone, let alone an ambidextrous pitcher! He finished with 284 wins.
Mike (King) Kelly was even more of a drawing card, according to Marty Appel’s marvelous book Slide, Kelly, Slide. The first catcher to wear a glove and chest protector, he was also the first to earn $10,000 — a princely sum at the time — and the first to write an autobiography, not to mention the first to be lionized in song.
Like McGraw, Kelly hailed from Troy, NY, which once had a major-league team. A two-time batting champion, he was known for devising a myriad of trick plays, helping eight different teams from 1878-91. Kelly was best-known for teaming with Cap Anson on the Chicago White Stockings.
The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame, founded in 2008, was located inside Foley’s, an Irish pub on W. 33rd Street, steps from Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan. Owner Shaun Clancy, born in Ireland but bred in baseball, spent more than a decade hosting baseball personalities and events before COVID-19 caused him to shut down temporarily (a 2023 induction class will be announced soon).
Inductees, listed alphabetically, have included Sean Casey, Kevin Costner, Adam Dunn, Chub Feeney, Steve Garvey, Tom Gorman, Ed Lucas, Connie Mack, Tom McCarthy, Hal McCoy, Tug McGraw, Mark McGwire, Jack McKeon, Bob Murphy, Dale Murphy, Bill Murray, Dave O’Brien, Peter O’Malley, Walter O’Malley, Paul O’Neill, Nolan Ryan, Vin Scully, Bill Shea, Mike Sweeney, and many more.
And let’s not forget Joe McCarthy, the first manager to win pennants in both leagues; MLB Network’s Brian Kenny; 19th century hotshot Ned Hanlon; iron man pitcher Joe McGinnity; long-time White Sox owner Charles Comiskey; Johnny Evers of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance; Hall of Fame umpire Hank O’Day; and Wee Willie Keeler, who “hit ‘em where they ain’t.”
There are plenty of solid Irish stars in today’s game. Jeff McNeil, second baseman for the New York Mets, just won the National League batting crown and Sean Murphy, newly-acquired catcher for the Atlanta Braves, brought a Gold Glove with him from Oakland.
Ireland is also among the 20 teams in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
So enjoy the Wearing of the Green today and every day. Cheers, l’chaim, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you!
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Memories & Dreams, and many other outlets. A baseball historian, he’s also a published author and after-dinner speaker. E.mail him at email@example.com.
“In this day and age of big fastballs, you have to self-evaluate. I’m not someone who has a big swing-and-miss fastball but I have an ability to spin the baseball and manipulate the ball.”
— Braves starter Max Fried, runner-up for the 2022 NL Cy Young trophy
No member of the New York Mets has ever won a Most Valuable Player award . . .
The only father-and-son tandem in the Hall of Fame is Larry and Lee MacPhail . . .
Fernando Valenzuela, who won a Cy Young the same year he was NL Rookie of the Year, will have his No. 34 retired by the Dodgers on Aug. 11, joining fellow pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale . . .
Brandon Belt, a solid first baseman, will be deployed as the primary DH in Toronto.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.
As always, great stuff🙂👍⚾️!