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Tug McGraw

Contagious Enthusiasm…
The truly great are positive thinkers… they are enthusiastic… and that enthusiasm rubs off.

One of the greatest parts of spring is the day baseball stadiums throughout the country open their doors. As the first pitch of the season is thrown, everyone still believes their team has a shot.

In Major League Baseball – as in life – the key to success is that belief. To be successful, belief is not simply wishful thinking, but a mantra which runs deep in spirit and mind.

To this day, the New York Mets’ 1973 season is still an unmatched testament to the power of believing. Their season started with great potential, but as it progressed, the injury list grew longer and their confidence took a nose-dive. Even their haplessly-happy pitcher, Tug McGraw, was in a slump.

At the beginning of July their record was an embarrassing 33-42 – and the Mets had taken ownership of their division’s basement. In search of some confidence, McGraw found himself having lunch with friend Joe Badamo. “You’ve got to believe in yourself,” Joe kept saying, trying to boost the spirits of the struggling young pitcher.

And from that point on, when Tug was asked about the Mets, his only response was, “Ya gotta believe.”

During a team meeting, with barely a month left in the season, Mets Chairman M. Donald Grant stood to offer the players a little motivation. The best he could do was tell the players that no one at the team’s front office considered them a last-place club. Halfway through his rambling effort at encouragement, Tug stood up. “Ya gotta believe!” he screamed, thrusting his fist in the air. “Ya gotta believe!” He looked every one of his teammates in the eyes as he repeated the phrase over and over again.

One by one, they heard him loud and clear. Between laughing at Tug’s performance, teammates began chanting those three words.

Reporters heard about the incident and Tug – better known to many of today’s youngsters as father of country music star Tim McGraw – didn’t mind encouraging others to join in the positive mindset.

After four months of disappointing themselves and their fans, “belief” found its way into the Mets dugout. With only 20 games remaining, they had to be optimistic and continue to believe that they could reverse their streak. To even get close to winning their division, the Mets seemingly had to win every game for the rest of the season.

tug2They won that day, and the next. Before they knew it, they were 5 games from first place. The team was on fire. Old injuries seemed to heal and the fans packed the stadium yelling the new rally cry.

Then, on October 10, 1973 the Mets won the National League Championship with a 7-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the fifth game of the series. They ended the season with an 82-79 record and a .509 winning percentage. It remains the lowest winning percentage of any division winner or pennant winner in baseball history.

The Mets went on to lose in Game Seven of the World Series to the Oakland A’s, but in New York, the rally cry “Ya gotta believe!” can still be heard today.

Tips From the Great Ones

Perseverance is a quality that helped Tug McGraw become infamous in both his professional and personal life. After his time with the Mets, he continued to inspire millions by winning the World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980 and later fighting brain cancer. Though he lost his fight, he continues to encourage others through the amazing foundation created before his death (www.tugmcgraw.org).

It was perseverance and self-belief which allowed him to overcome obstacles and rise to new heights.

tug3On that summer day in 1973, Tug’s teammates were presented with two messages: one from the chairman of the Mets and the other from their teammate. In the end Tug’s CONTAGIOUS ENTHUSIAM was what the Mets needed to succeed.

No other team has ever come back from that kind of deficit so late in the season. The Mets 1973 season was not just about good baseball, but about the cycle of believing in one’s self to deliver a positive outcome.

In our current economic state, always remember the power of a positive mind-set and the importance of belief in beating the impossible.

When you’re trying to work through your challenge-professional or personal – do so with the belief that the best is yet to come. Stay positive.

Next time you read the paper, skip the bad news that saturates the front page and go straight for the sports page -especially during the beginning of baseball season!!

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Certified Speaking Professional (CSP)

About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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