I was never what you might call a New York Mets fan.
I discovered Major League Baseball through the 1968 World Series and have been a St. Louis Cardinal fan ever since. However, the 1969 Mets amazed the baseball world with a Series win that still ranks among the best stories in MLB history.
I greatly admired Tom Seaver, the greatest of all Mets. While there have been other truly great baseball players who wore the uniform, names like Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool, Tommie Agee, and Cleon Jones joined Hall of Famers like Seaver and Nolan Ryan to form the nucleus of that 1969 team. There had never been a winning season in the first nine years of the franchise. Yet, the “Amazin’ Mets” won it all in dramatic fashion with astonishing defensive plays, outstanding pitching, and enough timely hits to stun even their most ardent fans, not to mention the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles.
One of the members of that 1969 team was a relative unknown at the time. Frank Edwin McGraw, Jr., otherwise known as “Tug” and the father of country star Tim McGraw, was a left-handed reliever who was still with the Mets in 1973. Although the Mets had enjoyed some success following the ’69 Series win, the ’73 season was disappointing in many ways.
Still in last place in their division on Aug. 30, the Mets started a rally centered around McGraw’s now famous “Ya Gotta Believe” mantra. The team fought their way back to win the Eastern Division on the last day of the season. Then, they beat the mighty Cincinnati Reds to win the National League before losing in seven games to the Oakland A’s.
Even though the Mets fell short of the ultimate goal, that magical run powered by a magical phrase became the stuff of legends.
At 13, with a growing love of playing the game myself, I ended up with a t-shirt modeled after McGraw’s “Ya Gotta Believe!” It looked a lot like this.
It took seven more seasons, but Tug McGraw finally won a World Series in 1980 with the Philadelphia Phillies and the phrase re-emerged!
That shirt wouldn’t fit me now, but I wish I still had it.
I wish I had it as a reminder on the days when believing is hard.
I wish I had it to show my women’s golf team members when they’re not playing their best or when their class load and life issues seem overwhelming.
I wish I had it to share with my friends and family members who’ve prayed and prayed for better health or a job or a baby.
I wish I had it to wave like a flag at people who’ve lost the ability to believe in anything they can’t see or touch.
Sometimes, we just have to hang in there even when it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, we have to hang in there on behalf of a family member or friend and believe for them.
We don’t always get what we want but that doesn’t mean we can’t believe a better day is coming. Getting on the interstate or pulling out into an intersection requires enough faith to believe that you’ll arrive safely at your destination, even when we have no idea what lies ahead on the journey… So, like Journey sang so well, “don’t stop believin!”