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.
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.
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.
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.