Philadelphia Inquirer - August 5, 1980

Cardinals come to town

 

After a day off, the Phillies jump back into action against the St. Louis Cardinals tonight at 7:35 at Veterans Stadium.

 

The game opens a three-game series that ends the Phils' current home stand.

 

The Phillies are even in 10 games this season against the Cardinals. Dick Ruthven (10-7) will be on the mound for the Phillies, while John Fulgham (3-3) will start for Stv Louis.

 

BASEBALL

PHILLIES vs. St. Louis at Veterans Stadium (Radlo-KYW-1060, 7:35 p.m.)

 

Phillies Clinic at Cruz Recreation Center, Sixth and Master Streets, 1 p.m. 

DeMars:  Managing to forget

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

Every morning the paper tells him the story of where he could have been.

 

"American League West," it says. "Kansas City.... 65-40... .619."

 

Below that it will list the pursuers, such as they are – Oakland 12 games behind, Texas 14½ back, Minnesota 18 back...." Hmmm, some pursuit.

 

He could have been there now, Billy DeMars could. Had the wheels spun differently in somebody's head, he would be managing those Kansas City Royals right now.

 

It could be him 12 up. It could be him jetting leisurely toward the playoffs. It could be him, manager of the year.

 

He could have been somebody. Not just a contender, a winner. An easy winner.

 

Sending out George Brett to slash those three doubles a day. Shooting off the starter's pistol as Willie Wilson zooms around the bases faster than Bobby Unser. Turning loose Larry Gura to go 15-4.

 

It is somebody named Jim Frey who is doing that now. But it could have been William Lester DeMars. There were two final candidates for that Royals' job last fall. One was Frey, then a Baltimore Orioles coach. The other was DeMars, a Phillies hitting coach for 11 seasons.

 

It came down to the fact that Jim Frey was an American League guy.

 

"He knew the league. He knew the players," shrugs Billy DeMars. "I just knew them from reading about them."

 

It would be hard for Billy DeMars not to think about that now as he reads the paper every day. He could look at those standings, shake a fist at the sky, sigh with self-pity.

 

"Yeah, I could, I guess," concedes Billy DeMars. "But I'm not like that.

 

"Things happen, and that's it. My wife always says things happen for the best. She's made me believe that, too. What's gonna be is gonna be. What's gonna happen is gonna happen. I've got a job to do here now, and I'm gonna do it the best I know how."

 

He stands by the Phillies' batting cage the way he has been standing there for 12 years. He is talking about managing, the one big hurdle left for him now.

 

But then Bob Boone, a man with a troubled stroke, steps in for some swings. And Billy DeMars, the stroke doctor, cannot help but watch him.

 

"OK, Bobby, short and quick now," he is saying. "Short. That's it. OK now, you have to wait a long time. Remember now, wait. That's it. That's super, Bobby."

 

Boone steps out. DeMars turns away. The subject is managing again.

 

It is the one thing DeMars wants most to do now. But unlike some guys he won't promote himself shamelessly, like a guy hawking after-shave lotion.

 

"I never believed in that," DeMars says. "I don't think George Bamberger (now the manager in Milwaukee) did that. I don't think Jim Frey did that. Why not scout managers the way we scout players? People should be able to do that. I don't think you should have to go out and blow your own horn.

 

"Maybe that's not the right way to do it. I don't know. But I'm happy doing it that way. What the hell, I managed 11 years in the minor leagues and had success. I played for 15 years. I coached for 12. What other credentials do I have to have?"

 

So often in this game, success is a result of simply being in the right place at the right time. But DeMars says he isn't sure what the right place is anymore.

 

"Jim Frey, he was coaching in Baltimore," DeMars says.  “Was he in the right place at the right time? I really don't have any idea anymore what the hell it is that makes people say, hey, he ought to be a manager.

 

"Was (San Diego manager) Jerry Coleman in the right place? Did he get it because he was in the radio booth for 20 years? How about Bobby Mattick in Toronto? Did he get it because he was scouting for 30 years? Look at Dave Bristol in San Francisco. How many clubs has he managed?"

 

And still that circle turns and turns without pulling in DeMars. He will be 55 in a few weeks. He has been in the game for 38 seasons.

 

He was a minor league manager in the Baltimore chain from 1958 to 1968. You might say a few of the people he worked alongside in those years have amounted to something. Earl Weaver, (Orioles general manager) Harry Dalton, George Bamberger, (former Seattle manager) Darrell Johnson, (former Texas manager) Billy Hunter, (Seattle GM) Lou Gorman, (Mets GM) Frank Ca-shen, (Royals vice president) John Schuerholz.

 

Oh, yes. And one other guy was in that group. A guy named Jim Frey. Yep, it turned out that DeMars was beaten out for his all-time dream job by a guy he calls "probably my best friend in baseball."

 

"I'll tell you, they got themselves a helluva man," says DeMars. "If it wasn't going to be me, I'm happy as hell it was him.

 

"I haven't talked to him since we left for spring training. But I don't have to talk to him. I know he's feeling good with the kind of lead he's got over there.

 

"I'm happy they're in first even if it couldn't have been me," says DeMars. "I'm happy he's in first." He laughs. "And I hope like hell we play them in the World Series."

 

 

NOTES: As things stand now, Steve Carlton will pitch Thursday against the Cardinals. And that means he will miss all four games in Pittsburgh next weekend. That could be significant, since Carlton is the only Phillies pitcher to win in Pittsburgh since April 18, 1979. And no Phillies righthander has won there since Dick Ruthven did it in August, 1978…. Larry Christenson faces a final hurdle in his rehabilitation from elbow surgery tonight. Christenson will pitch to hitters either in batting practice or in a simulated-game situation. He was supposed to do that Sunday, but it was thought he needed a little more time.

Forever Young

 

McGraw enjoys his life, his job, himself

 

By Lewis Freedman, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

Tug McGraw is parading through his 15-room home in Media that "looks like the Waldorf-Astoria," according to Phillies' pitching coach Herm Starrette. With a snob's touch, the place could pass for a setting in "The Great Gatsby." But there are toys strewn over the floor of one room, books stacked in the corner of another and "the oval office" features copies of "Screwball," the biography of Tug McGraw, and "Scroogie," two volumes of the collected works of his now-defunct syndicated baseball comic strip.

 

"We've been living here for two years, and we're still moving in," says McGraw. "We" includes his wife, Phyllis; his son, Mark, 8; his daughter, Cari, 6½, and his mother-in-law. It is not a home of formality.

 

In all of his life, Frank Edwin McGraw, 36 years old on Aug. 30, lefthanded relief pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, husband, father, writer and, most of all (and, perhaps, best of all), dreamer, has only occasionally been accused of being formal.

 

The idea of his 6 feet, 184 pounds being encased in a tuxedo is humorous. It would be like putting a tie on Huck Finn's neck.

 

It may be that Tug McGraw was meant to be attired only in a baseball uniform. In uni form, he knows no inhibitions, and his expression is usually one of joy.

 

"It's just that I never learned to hide my feelings," he said. "And I'm not trying to, either. I have a lot of fun being myself."

 

He has also had fun being a professional athlete. He has pitched in two World Series and has been chosen for two All-Star games. He has parlayed an efficient screwball, a good fastball, a curve and a slider into a 15-year major league career, and now he is experimenting with a knuckleball.

 

 

McGraw, his dark blond hair matted with sweat after pregame calisthenics and outfield sprints, was sitting atop the back of the dugout bench on a hot night, lightly pounding his glove with his left fist in that absent-minded way baseball players have of releasing tension.

 

His boyish face was grinning, and his big brown eyes evoked the image of a little scamp caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

 

Because of his displays of enthusiast on the diamond – beating his glove on his thigh, leaping, arms up thrust, to celebrate a strikeout, and his sometimes zany humor – some might consider him impudent and a wise guy.

 

"It's a shame they don't enjoy me as much as I enjoy me," he said.

 

Sometimes it's so much fun to plan a series of pitches and have everything go right, it makes you go crazy."   

 

Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn is one who does not always enjoy McGraw. When McGraw said it might be fun and nostalgic to end his career with the Mets if the Phillies didn't want him anymore, Kuhn wrote to say that was a no-no.

 

McGraw, with the Phillies since 1975, is a free agent after this season, but he has no interest in talking contract with the Phillies until the season is over.

 

So far this year, his pitching has been pennant caliber. In 31 appearances, he has 10 saves, has the best earned-run average on the team (2.16) and has had long streaks of baffling batters to the point that they hardly manage to hit a fair ball. Since returning from the disabled list on July 17 (he was bothered by tendinitis), he has appeared in seven games, pitched 9 innings, allowed five hits, no runs and has earned three saves.

 

 

The antics of McGraw date back to his days in the bullpen with the New Yoyk Mets when they reached the World Series in 1969 and 1973. He had 27 saves with the Mets in 1972 and 25 in 1973, but his fame stems as much from coining the phrase "You Gotta Believe," when that underwhelming team made its charge from last place in 1973.

 

He has been described as a flake, blithe spirit and an Irish rogue (he loves potatoes and wants to visit Ireland when he retires). In the locker room, he leans toward tapes of Elvis Presley and show music.

 

He has munched spare ribs in the bullpen after sending out to a deli near Shea Stadium. He has cultivated cherry tomatoes in the bullpen, insisting they started growing wild. In one of his most spectacular routines, on St. Patrick's Day last year during a Phillies' spring training game, he shed his uniform to reveal shorts, green longjohns, green socks and a green tee-shirt with a leprechaun on it and the words, "You Gotta Believe."

 

A lot of people are always looking for an angle on good bullpen stories," McGraw said, "but generally speaking, it's boring out there." Actually, he watches the first six innings of Phillies games from the bench, studying the hitters.

 

"I have a lifetime of being a showoff guy," admitted McGraw, "but that doesn't make me a bad guy." Rarely has he been accused of that.

 

He visits children in hospitals and is a regular on the Little League banquet circuit. When young fans organized a Tug McGraw fan club, he insisted they use the dues to help support an American Indian family in New Mexico. He is also on the national board of the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation.

 

And he doesn't just lend his name. He works for the cause, including organizing sometimes ill-fated long-distance bicycle fund-raisers, such as the one in which pitcher Larry Christenson was injured last year.

 

Helping others, he said, "that's part of the responsibility of being lucky, good and healthy... trying to help other people who aren't blessed with one of those things."

 

 

Tug McGraw was born in Martinez, Calif., grew up and went to high school and junior college in Vallejo, Calif., 25 miles from San Francisco.

 

He came by the nickname "Tug", (displayed next to his Phillies' uniform number as "Tug45" on the license plate of his 1969 white convertible Mercedes) early.

 

"My mother named me that when I was first born," said McGraw as he sat in a lounge chair beside a large and ornate pool in a backyard that was once three acres of open space.

 

His father was named Frank, and there were several cousins with the name, "so no one knew what to call the baby." But his mother pointed out that he was quite a "tugger" when he was breast fed. The relatives all called him Tugger, and "it was cemented when I went to kindergarten.

 

"They read the roll and asked if they had missed anybody," said McGraw. "Well, they had read Frank, but I hadn't recognized that.

 

"The teacher said, 'Well, I have a Frank here,' and I said, 'No, that's my daddy, and he's already been to kindergarten.'"

 

Life was not idyllic for McGraw as he was growing up. He had a lot of hangups. His parents divorced. For years he had little confidence, his bravado and enthusiasm on the mound partially serving to mask his insecurity.

 

Although he played baseball in addition to football, basketball, swimming and track at his 450-student high school, McGraw never thought of becoming a professional until his older brother, Hank, whom he idolized and emulated, signed a contract with the Mets' Class A Salinas, Calif., affiliate.

 

It was Hank's pushing that got him enough attention to be signed for $7,000, most of which he promptly spent on a 1961 white Chevrolet convertible with blue interior and "toned down fins."

 

"I was in the big leagues for about four years before I developed the confidence to realize I really belonged there," McGraw said.

 

It came all of a sudden, in the 1969 playoffs, when "I got a hitter out exactly as I pre-planned it."

 

It was home run-king Hank Aaron at the plate. "I needed a strikeout, and I got it."

 

 

McGraw is in his backyard with its neatly trimmed lawn and patio furniture shaded by 200-year-old oaks and a Japanese Maple tree. There is a pool, complete with Jacuzzi, adjacent to a hand-laid stone wall. Phyllis is at the righthand of Tug, the stone mason, wearing Mark's skateboarding knee pads as she scrapes excess mortar away. There is a garden of squash, potatoes, tomatoes, pepper, lettuce, beans, brussels sprouts and cabbage.

 

McGraw is admiring the 22-foot-long stone barbecue, which after two summers in the making is almost ready to roast its first pig.

 

This is McGraw's pride and joy, his Father's Day present for about 20 years.

 

It is indeed a colossus among barbecues (Phillies pitcher Dick Ruthven says it belongs in a national park).

 

When finished it will have a sink, beer tap, long counters and refrigerator.

 

"This is a monument to all the things I wanted in life," said McGraw.

 

He is clearly at peace at his home.

 

He enjoys diving back and forth between the 103-degree temperatures of the Jacuzzi and the stream-like cool of the pool. He proudly leads a visitor through the rooms of the 1830s house, rooms that are conspicuous in their lack of baseball memorabilia. There are only a handful of pictures of him in Mets' uniforms.

 

"My baseball trophies are all packed away," he said, joking about how few he has collected. The only visible one is from a Little League in 1974 – for a speech.

 

"One day I'll have a room downstairs with all the baseball stuff," he said. "I don't want this to be Tug McGraw's personal baseball museum. The rest of the family lives here, too."

 

The barbecue – Phyllis calls it "Tug's monument to himself" – is just one of McGraw's big ideas. The comic strip featuring Scroogie, the screwball-throwing pitcher, was another. His children's books, Tug McGraw Productions (a speakers' bureau) arid making leather bags are others. He is easily excited by ideas.

 

Sometimes Phyllis, 33, his striking wife who also has dark blond hair, reminds him to concentrate on baseball. She is from Santa Monica, Calif., and was a TWA stewardess when she met McGraw.

 

"I'm his good conscience," she said. "I have a lot of common sense that I sling his way once in a while when I have to bring him back to reality."

 

"If it wasn't for her…." said McGraw. "I'm disorganized and scatter-brained. I'm real good at taking orders. If she has a list for me, I'm real good at getting things done."

 

It is odd to view McGraw the flake as a man with deep respect for authority, but the major influences in his life – his father, Mets manager Gil Hodges and Sgt. G. M. Early, his Marine drill instructor – are clearly authority figures. "Off the field, I think that's fabricated. I don't get in trouble. I don't think I'm as much of a flake as a lot of people think I am," he said.

 

McGraw did much of his maturing when he was in the Marine Reserves in 1964 and 1965.

 

"I did good in there," said McGraw. "I learned a lot about myself – respect for leadership, recognizing my own leadership ability, relating to men under pressure, concentration on the rifle range." All things, he admits, that help in professional sports.

 

 

If there is one thing Tug McGraw is blessed with it is boyish charm. But he also has tenacity and persistence. Those traits enabled him to joke about what might have been a serious operation to remove a growth next to his rib cage in 1975. And to convince Phyllis to marry him.

 

They met 12 years ago in a New York bar owned by former Yankee Phil Linz.

 

"We were both drunk and we were both from California," is McGraw's synopsis. "That night I told her, 'I think I'm going to marry you someday.'"

 

Phyllis was not so sure.

 

She hated New York and had put in for a transfer back to California. Her knowledge of sports was so limited she didn't know athletes could make a living at them.

 

After being introduced, they talked until 4 a.m., when he drove her home.

 

"We almost went off the East River Drive," she said. "He was pretty lit."

 

In true soap opera fashion, at 8 o'clock the next morning her transfer, effective in 10 days, came through. They dated for 10 days and she left for California. So McGraw began writing letters.

 

"My father kept saying, 'Who is this guy?'" said Phyllis.

 

Then, coincidentally, she planned a three-week vacation at a friend's place in St. Petersburg, Fla.

 

"You're kidding," said McGraw. "That's where spring training is."

 

"What's spring training?" replied Phyllis. After dating her there and proposing every day, he wore Phyllis down sufficiently to get an intent-to-get-married commitment when the season was over.

 

"I could see what a good person he was," she said. "It finally came across that he was a really decent guy."

 

But McGraw, in those days seeking to be a starter with the pitching-rich Mets, soon was farmed out to Jacksonville and was shattered. He asked Phyllis to join him. She did, and they got married there.

 

"My parents had never met him when we got married," said Phyllis, then 21. "I gambled and I won."

 

Phyllis is now a fan, but not an especially knowledgeable one.

 

"He lives, eats and sleeps baseball," she said. "I feel guilty sometimes that I'm not more involved with the sport."

 

There is no other baseball nut in the family. Mark is more interested in playing soccer and piano, and Cari takes violin and horseback riding lessons.

 

Few other than Phyllis have had to gamble on McGraw. His jokes may make management nervous sometimes, but he is regarded as a serious athlete. (Asked the difference between AstroTurf and grass, he once said, "I don't know. I never smoked AstroTurf.")

 

"As a pitcher, he's very, very easy to get along with," said Phils' catcher Bob Boone. "It's really a lot of fun to work with him, and it's got nothing to do with his antics."

 

"He's a hard worker who's always trying to improve himself," said Starrette.

 

"He's an artist out there painting a picture. When he goes to the mound, he's all business.

 

"Really, not knowing the guy, you'd think he was a hot dog. And he's not. He's just Tug McGraw."

 

 

It's not that Tug McGraw never grew up; it's just that he never stopped being young.