PHILADELPHIA -- Tug McGraw won't let his illness affect his
sense of humor.
His thoughts slowed because of medication, McGraw reeled off
one-liners in typical style Thursday as he talked about his battle
with brain cancer for the first time.
"It was a lovefest," McGraw said after walking into the
Philadelphia Phillies' clubhouse. "Everybody came over to me.
There were a lot of hugs and some kisses, probably from the switch
A former star reliever with the Phillies and the New York Mets,
McGraw was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor shortly after he
was hospitalized in Clearwater, Fla., on March 12.
McGraw, 58, was working as a special spring training instructor
for the Phillies when he became ill. He knew something wasn't right
when he went to the stadium on an off day.
"They told me I had three weeks to live," McGraw said. "I'm
still alive, so the three-week thing didn't work."
Joined by his 7-year old son, Matthew, and wearing a baseball
cap that bore his trademark slogan, "Ya Gotta Believe," McGraw
became emotional a few times during a news conference at Veterans
Stadium before the Phillies played the Mets.
"I'm not fearful. I have confidence," said McGraw, best known
for his zany antics during his 20-year career in the major leagues.
McGraw underwent six hours of surgery to remove a brain tumor
nine days after he was hospitalized. He completed one month of
radiation and chemotherapy, and is still undergoing chemotherapy
one week a month.
"The prognosis is very good," said McGraw, who lost his long,
blonde hair because of the chemo.
McGraw compiled a 96-92 record with a 3.14 ERA and 180 saves in
his career with the Mets and Phillies. The left-hander pitched for
the Mets from 1965-74 and the Phillies from 1975-84.
McGraw popularized the phrase, "Ya Gotta Believe!" with the
Mets during their improbable pennant run in 1973, and later closed
out the Phillies' only World Series championship in 1980.
A fan favorite in both Philadelphia and New York, McGraw is best
remembered by Phillies fans for striking out Kansas City's Willie
Wilson to end Game 6 of the 1980 World Series and win the title.
The Phillies are hanging McGraw's No. 45 jersey in the dugout
during each of their games this season.
"He's a big part of our history," said Phillies manager Larry
Bowa, who played with McGraw on the 1980 Phillies. "It was great
to see him."
Phillies third-base coach John Vukovich was the first to greet
McGraw when he entered the team's clubhouse.
"He's a tough guy. He's going to be fine," said Vukovich,
another member of the 1980 Phillies.
McGraw didn't stay to watch Thursday night's game, but planned
to return to the Vet for Saturday night's game against the Montreal
Expos. He said the response he has received from fans, former
teammates and other players has been incredible.
"Being a flake and someone who lives on the edge, you don't
know how people would respond. It's been overwhelming," he said.