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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Tug at my heart
Ya gotta believe the 58-year-old world champ will pull through.

News of Tug McGraw's sudden cancer diagnosis hit as hard and loud here as a 90 mph Jose Mesa fastball off the skull of Omar Vizquel.

This pain is all too real, however.

This entire region owes the Tugger thanks for that last pitch to Willie Williams with the bases loaded in 1980. The jump upward. The clutching of his heart. And the celebration that followed the World Series win.

Ya gotta believe the 58-year-old world champion will pull through.

Though I've never met the man, he's responsible for one of my favorite memories growing up.

I owe him for the smile that crossed my mother's face during the last game in 1980. Despite coughing and sputtering, she smiled and laughed with joy as my family watched the victory in our livingroom. Five years later, she died from cancer of the lung and throat.

Now that same killer is stalking the two-time world champion closer. Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw was the heart and soul of the best Phillies team to take the field. But while other players in the dugout were dour, he was joyous. When his team showed doubt, he never hesitated.

It's no wonder that when he hung up his glove, WPVI-TV channel 6 wanted the eminently quotable ex-pitcher to do broadcast work. His quick smile and affable way made him a surrogate for Jim O'Brien.

Some time during the 15 years I spent upstate working on other newspapers, McGraw and the ABC affiliate parted company. Just a day before word leaked out about his hospitalization, I was wondering why aloud.

Now, we're all left clutching our hearts.


It's two steps forward and a big one back for the birds' defense.

While the Eagles were able to sign linebackers Mark Simoneau and Nate Wayne over the last two weeks, they've lost defensive end Hugh Douglas to the Jaguars.

I won't pretend to be a football expert. Hell, I barely understand the backroom machinations and on-field plotting that goes into building a strong 'D.'

But as a fan, I do know Douglas was one of the most charismatic and exciting players the birds have had in decades. With his many different hair cuts, and a ready wit, he was both engaging and entertaining to watch.

In an age when money talks in pro sports, you can't blame Douglas for going where the dough is. He has clearly given his all to this organization for five years only to be told he's getting too old now and asking for too much.

How many of us wouldn't walk away when treated like that by our bosses?

But to Douglas' credit he hasn't said a disparaging word about his former team. When NBC10 caught up with him in Florida over the weekend, he simply told the station it was time for him to move on. When asked if he had anything to say to fans, he replied, "Hey, at least I didn't go to the Giants."

Vintage Hugh. He knows where we live.


Don't uncross your fingers or exhale, but it looks like some new blood has injected life into the formerly floudering Flyers and the season-long unsensational Sixers.

The Flyers found that out early on this year. The roster from last year remained largely the same in the off season. So did the team's inability to find the net.

But each time the Flyers picked up a new player this season (at least seven times, by my count), the new guy almost always found a way to score during his first game. That trend continued after the trade deadline last week, when the latest acquisition, Tony Amonte, netted his first goal as his Flyers and helped get another.

"When you add one or two players, it makes everyone around you better," coach Ken Hitchcock told our Flyers newswire (SportsNetwork) after Thursday night's 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. "It adds confidence and raises the skill level."

Here's hoping Amonte keeps up that pace and that John LeClair, who returned during the same game, stays healthy.

The Sixers, who seemed to sleep through the first half of the season, have been on a tear since the all star break and have won 12 of their last 14 games. Not even the loss of center Todd MacCulloch has slowed them down.

When Larry Brown & Co. brought back former Sixer Tyrone Hill two weeks ago, it seem to add fuel to the fire beneath the team. Hmmm, maybe they should bring back Pat Croce too.

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at . To read his previous columns, click here.

March 17, 2003