Runners Freeze Their Shamrocks Off

admin | March 17, 2010 in Endurance,Race Report,Running | Comments (5)

Tug McGraw was always, always, ready for St. Patrick’s Day.  The famed pitcher for both the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies loved to play.  He loved to laugh.  He loved his Irish heritage, and any reason to celebrate is, well…a good reason to celebrate!

That’s when Team McGraw first got underway.  St. Patrick’s Day.

Specifically, it was March 12, 2005.  The First Annual Shamrock Spring 5K was to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in conjunction with their annual parade, and the event organizers had decided to dedicate the money raised from their run to the Tug McGraw Foundation in support of quality of life brain tumor research.

Jennifer Brusstar, president of the Tug McGraw Foundation, knew I was a runner and suggested I head to Milwaukee and run in Tug’s memory.  I figured we could dig a little deeper than just me, so I scampered onto our tour bus and hit up my bandmates for runnin’ buddies to share the fun.

My friend and bandmate Dean Brown (left) and I stretch it out a bit halfway through the race.

Denny Hemingson and Dean Brown, our steel player and fiddler respectively, were running regularly and instantly good to go.  Billy Mason, our drummer, wasn’t running so much, but he wasn’t about to let a chance to honor Tug slip away; he was in as well.

Our plans were almost derailed before we ever got started.  We were supposed to be off that weekend, but at the last minute, we were called to perform in Washington, DC with Tim McGraw the night before the run in Wisconsin.

One of the magical wizards from the parade; for the record, I'm on the left, wizard on the right.

The event was a charity fundraiser for the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.  This made things trickier.  We did not finish our show in Washington, DC until late.  After the show, we were part of the “mix and mingle” with all the supporters and contributors.  It was a great cause…but a long night.

It was a tough schedule, but my buds stepped up, and after only two hours of sleep and a crack-o’-dawn flight on race morning, we were laced up in Milwaukee and decked out in our custom-made green Tug McGraw “45” baseball jerseys.

(From left) DANCEHALL DOCTORS: Drummer Billy Mason, steel guitarist Denny Hemingson, me and fiddler Dean Brown.

For the first time, ”Team McGraw” was headed to the starting line.

Together our foursome shivered through sixteen-degree weather as friends and fans, elfin and otherwise, lined the sidewalks to cheer on all the runners over the 3.1-mile course.  Donations to sponsor Team McGraw raised over $45,000 for the Tug McGraw Foundation.

“45” was Tug’s number.  We raised over $45,000.  Cool.

After the race, the cold penetrated deeper as my pals and I boarded a float and rode through downtown as part of the parade celebration.  Wizards wandered the alleyways and the music of buoyant bagpipers filled the air.  Despite the chilly weather, it was a fun way to ring in the holiday.

Tug would have dug it…though I doubt he would have chosen to join us on the run.  He’d be back at the pub, ready to welcome our return from the cold with a warm drink and a slap on the back.  He’d be reveling in the joy of his Irish-ness, probably singing at the top of his lungs, and I have no doubt he would have had something funny and inappropriate to say about how we all had surely frozen our shamrocks off during the run that morning.

No sweat, Tugger.  Anything for you, pal.

5 Responses to “Runners Freeze Their Shamrocks Off”

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  1. Comment by KevinMarch 18, 2010 at 8:10 am  

    Great story and pictures! St. Patrick’s Day seems like such a perfect beginning for Team McGraw!

  2. Comment by ChristineMarch 18, 2010 at 10:33 am  

    Thanks Jeff, for sharing this fun story and great pictures from the “first” Team McGraw event on St. Patrick’s Day, March 12, 2005. The “Ya Gotta Believe” spirit was definitely alive on that day, and is still going strong five years later.

    I have a feeling Tug is smiling down upon us all, and proud of the accomplishments of the Tug McGraw Foundation and its mission.

    Ya Gotta Believe!

  3. Comment by JulesMarch 18, 2010 at 10:45 am  

    When Irish eyes are smiling,
    Tis like a morn in spring.
    With a lilt of Irish laughter
    You can hear the angels sing
    When Irish hearts are happy
    All the world is bright and gay
    When Irish eyes are smiling
    Sure, they steal your heart away.

    Hey Babe,
    What dedication you and your band members have got. Tug was the dearest man who I know he would have been smiling down on all of you, and most likely laughing at all of you running in the cold elements that St. Patrick’s Day.

    Love ya once, Love ya twice, Love ya more than beans and rice.

    Big Irish Hug,

  4. Comment by Genvieve GoldsteinMarch 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm  

    Love it! Love the history for where Team McGraw began. This was the start of something BIG!

  5. Comment by JoAnn Boeckermann — March 20, 2010 at 8:23 pm  

    Thanks so much for sharing your stories. This is awesome to know how TMF got going, and it is so heartwarming to see it grow into a recognized name in our small rural community in Central Minnesota. Thanks so much, Jeff, for coming to our town last spring; we will miss you at our event this year -but we will be working even harder for the cause. We have just buried two more people in our area from brain tumors — it makes us work all the harder to find a cure!!!!! Thanks again for sharing and promoting the Tug McGraw Foundation as you do!!!!!
    luv ya,

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