Author: John Kopp
On the night of Oct. 21, 1980, a man tried to rush his laboring wife to the hospital.
He found driving the city's streets to be a difficult endeavor. The Phillies had just won their first World Series and traffic was halted in celebration.
That's one of the more memorable stories Diane McGraw can recall about the effect her late husband, Tug, and his 1980 Phillies, had on fans who had waited nearly 100 years for a World Series championship.
Diane McGraw was at the Hyatt Regency Penn's Landing last night to celebrate the induction of the 1980 Phillies into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
Joining the Phillies in the hall's fourth induction class: field hockey player Beth Anders; former Flyer Bill Barber, former Inquirer sports writer Bill Lyon; broadcaster Jack Whitaker; former Phillie Chuck Klein; Bartram High basketball great Earl Monroe; former Temple men's basketball coach Harry Litwack; former Philadelphia A's catcher Mickey Cochrane; soccer player Walter Bahr; former collegiate women's basketball coach Theresa Grentz; and former Eagles Frank "Bucko'' Kilroy, Earl "Greasy'' Neale and Reggie White.
Each of the inductees compiled a lengthy list of accomplishments, but McGraw, the Phillies' closer, had a unique bond with Philadelphians.
"I think it was his character,'' Diane said. "The zany character that he was, the fact that he won the only World Series ever for the Phillies. But just his personality, I think, and his love for Philadelphia, for the fans, who were always big in his heart . . . No matter how many people were waiting in line, he always stopped and gave everyone an autograph.''
It was Tug who hurled that fateful pitch past the Kansas City Royals' Willie Wilson, capping a season that began slowly, featured an unforgettable National League Championship Series and saw the city's first World Series appearance in 30 years.
In one of McGraw's last public appearances before his death in 2004, he re-enacted that pitch during a celebration on the final day at Veterans Stadium. McGraw, recovering from a brain tumor, didn't have the strength to jog from the bullpen, instead being escorted in a convertible. Still, he mustered enough strength to leap off the mound, arms reaching toward the sky, as the sold out crowd roared in approval.
"He's still loved around the country, but particularly here in Philadelphia, he's an icon,'' Diane said.”I see people talk about him and it brings tears to their eyes, just the fact that they remember him and remember what he did for the city.''
McGraw's sons, Matthew, Mark and Ian, accepted the award in honor of their father as the 500 people in attendance applauded.
Del Unser, a key member of the 1980 Phillies, summed up both that team and McGraw as he accepted the team's induction.
"If you're decent here, you're remembered,'' Unser said. “If you're good here, you're revered.''
Another revered icon - the late Reggie White - was represented by his wife, Sara, who walked to the podium to a standing ovation, one of several on the night.
White played eight seasons as a defensive lineman with the Eagles, beginning in 1985. He made the Pro Bowl in the last seven of those seasons, as he became one of the finest pass rushers in the National Football League. When he retired in 1998, his 198 sacks were the most all-time.
There are plenty of players who have put up beefy statistics in this city, but aren't nearly as revered as White. To capture the hearts of the city, it takes more than on-field production.
"Reggie was so honest and he was so wholesome and he did so much for the community on and off the field and he brought people together,'' Sara said. “He was the epitome of what our city is - Brotherly Love - and they liked that and respected that out of Reggie.''
White never shied away from stating his beliefs, whether on his Christian ministry or free agency. He ultimately left the Eagles after the 1992 season, signing with the Green Bay Packers.
"Reggie believed in so much, but yet he did action,'' Sara said. "It wasn't just about talking. He wasn't a talker. He was a doer. And that's what I think people respect about him.''