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Stephen Gonsalves Jersey

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The Minnesota Twins lost one of their top pitching prospects on Monday as left-hander Stephen Gonsalves was claimed off of waivers from the New York Mets. The 25-year old was coming off a lost season in 2019 due to an elbow injury but the 2013 fourth-round pick also flashed some potential as he came up through the Twins system.

Gonsalves entered the Twins organization out of high school and quickly made an impression in the lower levels of their system. After putting together a pair of solid seasons in his first two years, he exploded onto the scene as a 20-year old in 2015 going 13-3 with a 2.01 ERA between Low-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers.

That trend continued as he posted another solid season the following year going 13-5 with a 2.06 ERA between Fort Myers and Double-A Chattanooga and broke into the top prospect lists nationally ranking as high as 78th on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list prior to the 2018 season and 97th on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list that same year.

That would lead to his major league debut for a Twins team that struggled mightily in 2018 and while he showed some decent stuff, his overall numbers were what you would expect from a rookie, going 2-2 with a 6.57 ERA in seven appearances for Minnesota.

The season could have set up an opportunity to help the Twins’ injury and performance-ravaged rotation late in the season, but after suffering a stress reaction in his forearm in mid-May, the Twins opted to shut him down.

The Mets will hope to get the most out of the 6-5 left-hander as the Twins look to overhaul their rotation. While Gonsalves likely wasn’t going to fit the bill of “impact pitching,” he could have provided depth that the Twins will have to look for somewhere else.

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The New York Mets have officially released veteran right-handed reliever Drew Gagnon ahead of the 40-man deadline.

The offseason continues for the New York Mets, and on Friday, they made their latest move. Ahead of the 40-man deadline, the Mets have decided to release right-handed reliever Drew Gagnon.

The 29-year old appeared in 23 games with the team over the last two seasons.

Gagnon is reportedly close to inking a deal for a team in the Korea Baseball Organization League.

This past season, Gagnon pitched in 18 games for the Mets. In that span of time, he posted a record of 3-1 with an ERA of 8.37 and a WHIP of 1.732. Gagnon additionally struck out 17 batters and walked seven through 23.2 innings pitched.

In 2018, he went 2-1 with an ERA of 5.25 and a WHIP of 1.667 through five appearances (one start). During that campaign, he struck out eight batters and walked five through 12 full innings pitched.

Needless to say, he struggled during his entire time in Queens, combining for a 7.32 ERA and a 1.710 WHIP.

Gagnon didn’t stand out from the bullpen, however, which possessed numerous issues this past year. The Mets relievers in 2019 finished 25th in the majors with a combined 4.95 ERA. It’s definitely an aspect of the game they’ll need to improve on ahead of the 2020 campaign.

As one goes, however, another arrives. This week, the Mets inked a minor-league deal with left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve. It comes with an invite to Spring Training, so there’s a chance Shreve can receive a promotion to the big leagues if he impresses.

Chris Flexen Jersey

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The Mets called up Chris Flexen in 2017 to make a start despite him having zero starts in Triple-A and only seven starts in Double-A Binghamton.

Shockingly, he didn’t go well for the inexperienced Flexen. After his pro debut on July, 2017 (three innings, three runs), Flexen would stay with the Mets making 14 appearances and nine starts down the stretch. He posted a 7.88 ERA in 48 innings.

Flexen finally got to Triple-A to start the 2018 season. Made eight appearances for the Las Vegas 51s before the Mets called him up. He would pitch poorly in relief on 11 days rest then get sent back Triple-A to start. He would continue to bounce back-and-forth between Las Vegas and New York before finishing strong in Triple-A with a 3.24 ERA in his last four starts of the season.

The 24-year-old had offseason knee surgery and came into camp this year noticeably slimmer. He made two starts in Triple-A this year before getting a spot start for the Mets on April 20 that didn’t go well. Back down to Triple-A for two outings before returning for one appearance with the Mets.

Flexen was finally able to settle in with six straight starts for Triple-A Syracuse starting on May 11. He posted a 3.15 ERA and 40 strikeouts in that span. Pretty impressive numbers in the International League, where runs per game have jumped from 4.16 in 2018 to 5.24 this season.

Then on June 12, the Mets did something interesting, they had Flexen pitch out of the pen for Syracuse. He pitched two scoreless innings, but more importantly he saw a velo spike with his fastball up to 96 mph.

The Mets needing a reliever – decided instead of letting Flexen settling into his new role – they would call him up after only one appearance as a strict reliever. The right-hander pitched the eighth inning of a tie game against the Cardinals. His stuff looked good overall, though he was a victim of Mets killer Paul DeJong‘s solo homer.

In the outing, Flexen would strikeout out two including Jose Martinez on a 98 mph fastball. Yes, 98 miles per hour on a fastball (averaged 93 mph in 2018) from Chris Flexen. He was also throwing his slider 88-91 mph and struck out Paul Goldschmidt on a good changeup at 86.

Chris Flexen has shown increased velocity since moving to the bullpen, here he blows 98 mph by Jose Martinez. pic.twitter.com/8tuAheb6JV

— Michael Mayer (@mikemayerMMO) June 20, 2019

Flexen got his second chance as a full-time reliever in the big leagues on Wednesday night against the Braves. He came in with nobody out with a runner on second in the sixth inning, a runner he would end up stranding. Though his control was still not where it needs to be, he flashed better stuff yet again.

He would come back out to pitch the seventh inning and he was impressive, setting down Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson in order. He struck out Swanson swinging at a 92 mph slider and blew a 97 mph fastball by Freeman.

As I noted, control was an issue for Flexen with only 23 strikes in 40 pitches. However, his fastball in the 95-98 mph range and slider at 88-92 certainly makes him an intriguing potential bullpen asset going forward if he’s able to settle into controlling his pitches as a full-time reliever.

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Mickey Callaway isn’t willing to relegate Edwin Diaz into lower-leverage situations yet. But with Diaz still struggling, reliever Jeurys Familia’s sudden return to form couldn’t come at a better time for the Mets.

The Mets’ 7-4 loss to Washington on Sunday at Citi Field snapped an eight-game winning streak, but Familia’s dominant eighth inning was an auspicious sign and left Callaway suitably impressed.

“I really am. That was a hell of an inning,” Callaway said. “His effort level is right where you want it. He doesn’t have to throw 95, 97 [mph] every pitch, just control your effort level, keep your head on the target, and he did that [Sunday]. And the results are there.

“That’s a turbo sinker he’s throwing up there, and if he executes it you’re going to get swings like [Gerardo] Parra took off him. He’s making huge strides. He continues to work and continues to have faith in himself.”

It wasn’t just Parra that Familia put on the back foot. He struck out the side, fanning Parra, catching Kurt Suzuki looking and fanning pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson. And it continued a recent resurgence for Familia.

After struggling to a bloated 7.76 ERA through July 5, Familia has turned his season around and pitched to a solid 2.79 ERA in his 13 outings since, working alongside pitching coach Phil Regan, bullpen coach Ricky Bones and pitching strategist Jeremy Accardo.
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“[I] just continue working hard, getting here early working with Ricky, Jeremy and Phil going into my bullpen just working on different things, working on mechanics and just pretty much having confidence in my pitches,” said Familia, who has tossed three shutout innings in his last three appearances.

With Diaz mired in a horrible slump — and it got even worse after he coughed up two more runs in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday — the Mets are in dire need of another reliever to step up alongside Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson. Familia is making a bid, thanks to some mechanical tweaks suggested by Bones.

“Yeah, since Ricky’s gotten here he noticed that I was finishing a little bit short. So now I’m finishing a little longer, so now my arm has the opportunity to pretty much reach its point of the release,” Familia said through an interpreter, adding the adjustment has improved his control.

“Yeah, for sure it helps me to just kind of center the pitch, because I’m closer. Whenever I finish my pitch, it’s allowing me to throw strikes.”

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By the end of the 2018 season, Edwin Diaz had firmly established himself as one of the best closers in all of Major League Baseball.

Then just 24 years old, Diaz led the MLB in saves (57) while also boasting a 1.96 ERA and 15.2 K/9. With a dynamic fastball and a wipeout slider, Diaz seemed primed to dominate opposing hitters for years to come. At least, that is what the New York mets believed when they traded for him last winter.

Unfortunately for the Mets, Diaz took a big step back in 2019. He posted a 5.59 ERA and seven blown saves in 58 innings of work, eventually ceding the closer role to Seth Lugo.

Still, Diaz believes that he can get back to the elite level that he was at with the Seattle Mariners (via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com):

“Just because I’ve had one bad season, doesn’t mean I’m a bad pitcher,” Díaz said through an interpreter in late September, “especially when I’ve had three great seasons in Seattle. The fourth one went bad, but you just have to continue working so you can get back to that level.”

Diaz also asserted that his ability to reestablish the slider will be crucial to his success next year:

“For sure, the slider’s the most important pitch,” Díaz said. “My goal is to get that back to what it has been in years past. I’ve always said the fastball, anyone can hit the fastball. That’s a pitch about location. But the slider, that’s the main goal just to get that right again so I can be effective.”

Opponents hit close to .300 with a .622 slugging percentage off of Diaz’s slider last season.

It is also worth mentioning that former Mets manager Mickey Callaway was criticized for his handling of Diaz last season after using him for multiple-inning saves.

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WASHINGTON – Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets could not be more committed to one another. And yet they struggle to coexist.

See, deGrom and the Mets agreed to a five-year, $137.5 million contract extension in March, a just reward for a Cy Young Award-winning season. Yet as deGrom zeroes in on a second consecutive Cy Young award, a pattern that began in 2018 has only worsened this year.

It goes like this: DeGrom creates magic with his right arm, blazing 98-mph fastballs past hitters, carrying the Mets deep into games and landing near the top of every National League pitching leaderboard.

And the Mets do all they can to lose – or, at least, avoid victory – on nights he pitches.

A mysterious pattern took a turn for the macabre on Tuesday night, when deGrom – who has received the worst run support of any starter the past two seasons – enjoyed the rare gift of 10 runs from his offense.

No matter. The Mets merely suffered one of the worst losses in their history, giving up seven runs in the bottom of the ninth inning in falling 11-10 to the Washington Nationals.

Given that the Mets fell five games back of the second wild card slot with 23 games to play, this was not your average gut punch.

Fortunately for deGrom, the only thing better than his ERA, WHIP and FIP is his ability to keep a stiff upper lip.

The 31-year-old confirmed that the club definitely “let one get away” and “felt like we had it,” and in a sense, he could’ve been talking about how the Mets are wasting two fantastic years from their ace.

He leads the NL in strikeouts (220) and rank fourth in the NL in ERA (2.76) and second in Fielding Independent Pitching. Yet the 70-68 Mets are just 10-18 in games he starts.

If the Mets merely played .500 ball in deGrom’s starts, they’d be 74-64, and one game behind the Cubs for a playoff spot. Instead, they must make up five games and vault four teams merely for a shot at the second wild card berth.

Whether it’s the 3.67 runs of support per game he receives – third worst in the NL – or a Mets bullpen that can’t carry his handiwork across the finish line, deGrom has mastered the art of compartmentalization.

“He knows that all he can do is try to limit runs,” says Mets manager Mickey Callaway. “And he does that better than any pitcher in baseball.”

Callaway, though admitting bias, believes deGrom is “hands down” the favorite for the NL Cy Young, and he might be right. For one, the pack has come back to deGrom.

Dodgers lefty Hyun-jin Ryu has hit a late-season wall. Nationals ace Max Scherzer – who gave up four runs in six innings opposite deGrom Tuesday – is a game but limited version of his best self as he manages a back injury. Braves righty Mike Soroka has sterling peripherals but just 152 2/3 innings pitched in his first full big league season.

Yet deGrom has also gradually put his grip on the award. He’s posted eight 10-strikeout games and since late May has a 2.41 ERA, best in baseball.

Tuesday, he was at times dazzling, striking out six over seven innings and giving up just two runs through seven innings.

It was the 15th time in 28 starts he’d gone at least seven innings, but Callaway hoped to milk a few more outs from him. Alas, a dribbler single from Anthony Rendon preceded a two-run homer from Juan Soto, and deGrom’s night went from great to OK.

After the Mets scored five runs in the top of the ninth, the bottom fell out, and deGrom was left to ponder another no-decision, and another team loss on his night.

He remains 8-8 this season, one year after winning the Cy Young with a comically pedestrian 10-9 record that belied many of his historically dominant stats, including a 1.70 ERA and a 221 adjusted ERA.

His run support – 3.53 per game – was the very worst in the NL last year. Yet Mets coach Phil Regan, 82, believes an ace like deGrom can still derive pleasure out of his own greatness even when it doesn’t correlate to team success.

“Yeah, it’s a little disappointing when we mess up a game,” says Regan, “but when you do your job and know you’re doing your job, there’s a satisfaction to it. He never complains about the hitters or anything. That’s the game.

“He does his job. And does it real well.”

Even if his teammates can’t return the favor.

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The Mets have promoted 25-year-old RHP Tyler Bashlor from Double-A Binghamton for Monday’s game against the Pirates, with Chris Flexen being sent down.

Bashlor, or, “Bash,” as they call him, has a 2.63 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 30 strikeouts in 24 innings across 20 outings this season. Since the Mets drafted him during the 11th round in 2013, he has a 3.29 lifetime ERA in 117 career minor-league games. He last pitched on Friday.

During this past spring training in St. Lucie, Bashlor quietly emerged as a young reliever worth keeping an eye on this summer. The kid works hard and is aggressive on the mound.

He clearly earned the attention of several veteran players and coaches when throwing live batting practice during a session in late February…

According to people that have watched him this season, while his fastball is consistently in the mid to upper 90s, he is still struggling to command his breaking ball. If this continues for him after his promotion, major-league batters will either walk or sit on his fastball, at which point he’ll be hit hard.

I can see a typical inning being shaky at first. However, if he can find his command, experts say his fastball is varied and quick enough that he can one day be a set-up guy…

In Bashlor, I simply saw a small guy with a lot of attitude, that throws loud and hard and has a pretty badass tattoo on his entire right arm. I’m no scout, and have no idea how he’ll perform on the big stage, but he certainly looks the part…

By the way, with one of the last pitches he tossed during the aforementioned spring training session, Bashlor lost the handle on a fastball and nearly hit Todd Frazier, who — without skipping a beat — slammed his bat to the ground and started marching angrily toward Bashlor and the mound…

Naturally, Frazier then dropped his bat, pointed and laughed. Bashlor, however, looked beyond nervous and struggled the rest of his session. He got through it, though.

As the session wrapped, Mickey Callaway made a point to walk out to the mound, put his arm on Bashlor’s shoulder and seemed to say something that reassured the young man.

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Pedro Martinez, born in Manoguayabo, Dominican Republic, on Oct. 25, 1971, grew up with five brothers and sisters in a one-room home on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. His talent – and that of his brother, Ramon Martinez – soon attracted pro scouts.

“Talent is God-given,” Martinez said. “I have my own style. And there have been many, many teachers.”

Ramon signed with the Dodgers on Sept. 1, 1984. Pedro followed Ramon to Los Angeles, signing with the Dodgers on June 18, 1988. By 1990, Ramon was a 20-game winner in the big leagues – and Pedro was one of the Dodgers’ top prospects, despite his 5-foot-10 frame that carried less than 150 pounds in those days.

“I know who I am and where I came from,” Martinez said in 2011. “And I will never forget.”

In 1993, Pedro got regular work in the Dodgers’ bullpen, posting a 10-5 record in 65 games while striking out 119 batters in 107 innings. But following the season, the Dodgers traded Martinez to the Expos for second baseman Delino Deshields. After harnessing his explosive fastball over the next two seasons – which included a June 3, 1995 game where he retired the first 27 Padres batters he faced before allowing a hit in the bottom of the 10th – Martinez was named to his first All-Star Game in 1996 and then exploded onto the national scene the following year. In 1997, Martinez went 17-8 with a National League-best 1.90 earned-run average and 13 complete games, striking out 305 batters en route to his first Cy Young Award.

His combination of a 97-mph fastball, devastating change-up and pinpoint control made Martinez nearly unhittable.

“Every fastball hurts, hurts badly,” Martinez told the New York Post in 2005. “Imagine throwing a ball at 90 miles an hour, over and over again. People don’t know that every time you pitch a ball, you break blood vessels. Which is why we get our arms iced – so that the circulation can continue.”

But the Expos, knowing Martinez could become a free agent after the 1998 season, traded their ace to the Red Sox just days after he won the Cy Young. The Sox immediately locked up Martinez for the next seven seasons, setting in motion a virtually unprecedented string of success for the team and the pitcher.

Martinez went 19-7 in 1998 and finished second in the American League Cy Young Award vote, then posted a season for the ages in 1999 – going 23-4 with a league-best 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts, winning the pitching Triple Crown. He became just the eighth pitcher to post two 300-strikeout seasons, set a new mark (since broken by Randy Johnson) with 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings and finished second in the AL Most Valuable Player voting.

By some standards, 2000 was even better. Martinez went 18-6 that year with a 1.74 ERA and 284 strikeouts. He allowed just 128 hits in 217 innings pitched en route to a WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) of 0.737 – by far the best single-season mark in big league history. He accomplished all this in one of the most prolific offensive eras in baseball history and pitching on a home field (Fenway Park) that ranks as one of the most hitter-friendly in the game’s history.

Martinez capped 2000 by winning his third Cy Young Award in four years. He battled shoulder problems in 2001, but rebounded in 2002 with a 20-4 record, again leading the AL in ERA (2.26) and strikeouts (239). He finished second in the Cy Young Award voting, becoming the first pitcher to lead his league in ERA, WHIP (0.923), strikeouts and winning percentage (.833) and not win the Cy Young.

After leading the league again in WHIP, ERA and winning percentage in 2003 en route to a 14-4 mark, Martinez began showing wear and tear in 2004 – posting a 3.90 ERA while going 16-9. But Martinez still finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting – and helped the Red Sox end 86 years of frustration when they captured the World Series title for the first time since 1918. Martinez’s seven shutout innings in Game 3 on the road in St. Louis gave the Sox a commanding 3-games-to-0 lead and effectively wrapped up the title.

Martinez signed a free agent contract with the Mets following the World Series, going 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA in 2005 while giving his new team – which lost 91 games in 2004 – instant credibility. The following year, Martinez battled a nagging toe injury and was eventually shelved with a shoulder injury while going 9-8 – but was instrumental in a Mets’ season that featured an appearance in the National League Championship Series.

After two more injury-filled seasons – including the 2007 campaign that featured his 3,000th career strikeout – Martinez sat out the first part of the 2009 season before signing with the Phillies to help their postseason push. He went 5-1 in nine regular-season starts – becoming the 10th pitcher to win at least 100 games in both leagues – then threw seven shutout innings against his old Dodgers club in the NLCS before losing both his starts in the World Series against the Yankees.

He explored pitching again in 2010 and 2011, but never returned to the majors and announced his retirement on Dec. 4, 2011.

“Don’t ask me to be a pitcher in my next life,” Martinez told the New York Times in 2006. “It’s too painful.”

The eight-time All-Star finished his career with a record of 219-100, good for a winning percentage of .687 that is sixth all-time and trails only Whitey Ford’s .690 among modern-era pitchers with at least 150 victories. He won five ERA titles en route to a career mark of 2.93, captured six WHIP titles (his career WHIP of 1.054 ranks fifth all-time and is the best of any modern-era starter) and averaged 10.04 strikeouts per nine innings (third all-time behind Randy Johnson and Kerry Wood).

He is one of only four retired pitchers with at least 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks.
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DID YOU KNOW

that Pedro Martinez WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) of 0.737 in 2000 is the best single-season mark in big league history among pitchers with at least one inning pitched per team game played?

Tug McGraw Jersey

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Born Frank Edwin McGraw, August 30, 1944, in Martinez, CA; died from cancer, January 5, 2004, in Franklin, TN. Professional baseball player. The 2004 death of retired baseball player Tug McGraw from cancer at the age of 59 stunned legions of his longtime fans. McGraw was one of the sport’s most exuberant and popular figures during the 1970s and 1980s as a pitcher with the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1980, he led the Phillies to their only World Series victory. McGraw’s personal life was similarly mythic: late in life, he learned he was the father of a young boy, who went on to become country-music star Tim McGraw.

Born Frank Edwin McGraw in 1944, the future Major League Baseball legend grew up in Vallejo, California, where he played ball for St. Vincent Ferrer High School. His nickname dated back to infancy and his insistent feeding habits. After a stint on the team at Vallejo Junior College, he was signed to the New York Mets in 1964 as a free agent, and played with the Mets’ farm team for a season. He emerged as a top-notch left-handed pitcher with a good fast-ball and solid curveball, but a third throw was necessary to advance him out of the minors, and so McGraw perfected the screwball pitch, which would become his trademark.

McGraw went on to help the Mets win the 1969 World Series, but it was in the build-up to the 1973 post-season that his signature phrase, “Ya gotta believe!” was coined. In August of that year, the Mets were down more than eleven games, and after a particularly bad performance, Mets chair M. Donald Grant delivered a torrid locker-room lecture to the chastened team. Coming out of the meeting, McGraw was said to have uttered the phrase, poking fun of Grant’s pep talk, but his teammates burst out laughing and they went on to a winning streak that landed them in the World Series. Though the Mets lost to Oakland in seven games, “Ya gotta believe!” became the catchphrase of the season and would remain indelibly associated with McGraw’s high-spirited personality.

McGraw amassed a solid record as a pitcher, though he admitted that the pressures of performing as a relief pitcher occasionally unnerved him. “Coming into a game, my knees always feel weak,” he admitted to New York Times columnist Dave Anderson. “I have to push off the mound harder.” Known for his spontaneous quips and graciousness to his fans, McGraw became one of the sport’s most beloved figures of the times. “He wore his sandy hair long,” noted New York Times writer Frank Litsky, “and with his little-boy face and boyish enthusiasm he was a crowd favorite. After a third out, he would run off the mound, slapping his glove against a thigh. After a close call, he would pat his heart.” Traded to Philadelphia in 1974, he went on to help the franchise take East Division titles in 1976, 1977, and 1978, and the National League pennant in 1980 and 1983. But it was Game Six of the Phillies’ World Series race in 1980 that would define McGraw’s career and make him a hero forever in his adopted home-town: in the ninth inning, with bases loaded, he struck out batter Kansas City’s Willie Wilson, and the Phillies won the World Series pennant for the first time in Major League history.

The photograph taken just after that moment showed McGraw jumping off his mound, hands high in the air, and became one of the classic images in sports history. Another timeless photo was captured just seconds later, when Phillies third-base player Mike Schmidt jumped into his arms on the mound. Schmidt later said the two had planned it on their ride to Veterans Stadium that night. “Both of us knew whoever was on or near that mound for the final out would probably be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, ” Schmidt told the same publication. “Sure enough, it worked. Tug struck out Wilson and then turned to look at me at third base. Of course I came running and jumped on him.”

The 1984 season was McGraw’s last in baseball. He retired with a 96-92 record and a 3.14 earned-run average. He became a television reporter for a Philadelphia station, wrote three children’s books, and remained a fan favorite. The father of two sons and a daughter, he belatedly discovered his fourth and oldest child after an eleven-year-old Louisiana boy came across his birth certificate. Tim Smith was an ardent baseball fan, and was stunned to find the name of one of his heroes in the space on the document that listed the father’s name. Smith, who later took his father’s name, was the product of a romance between McGraw and Betty Trimble that occurred during his minor-league career, and McGraw had never known of the boy’s existence. McGraw and his long-lost son enjoyed a close relationship, and Tim McGraw grew up to become a country-music legend and husband of Faith Hill, another Nashville star.

McGraw was diagnosed with a brain tumor in March of 2003 while working at Phillies spring-training camp in Clearwater, Florida, as a special instructor. He underwent surgery in Tampa, after which his doctors—a team of top specialists assembled and paid for by his son, Tim—believed they had eradicated it completely, but a wait-and-see policy was in place when McGraw next appeared in public again on May 29. “I’m not fearful,” McGraw told reporters in a characteristically upbeat mood, according to a Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service report by Paul Hagen. “I have confidence.” He went to work on his autobiography, which carried the not-unexpected working title, Ya Gotta Believe! .

In September of 2003, McGraw reprised his 1980 World Series moment at the closing ceremonies at Veterans’ Stadium in Philadelphia, which was slated for demolition in March of 2004. He had hoped to be there for the demolition, but on December 31, 2003, he suffered a seizure, and died six days later at a cabin in Franklin, Tennessee, near the home of his son, Tim, and family. His former Philly teammate Schmidt told Sports Illustrated that McGraw accepted his fate with the same attitude that had made him such a favorite among players and fans alike. “Publicly, he never let on that he had gotten a raw deal,” Schmidt noted. “As he always said, ‘I front-loaded my life, just like my contract.’”

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Two-time National League MVP Dale Murphy called Nolan Ryan “the only pitcher you start thinking about two days before you face him.”

Ryan’s career spanned four decades and when all was said and done, he retired with 324 wins and a major league-record 5,714 strikeouts.

Ryan’s career began with the Mets organization in the mid- 1960s, but his commitment to his country, through military reserve service, prevented him from really hitting his stride in New York. It was not until the completion of his military service, and his trade to the California Angels, that the real Nolan Ryan emerged.

During his time with the Angels, he hurled four no-hitters and broke Sandy Koufax’s modern-era single-season strikeout record. Reggie Jackson, one of the most dominant sluggers of the generation, explained what it was like to face him. “I love to bat against Nolan Ryan and I hate to bat against Nolan Ryan. It’s like ice cream. You may love it, but you don’t want it shoveled down your throat by the gallon. I’ve never been afraid at the plate but Mr. Ryan makes me uncomfortable. He’s the only pitcher who’s ever made me consider wearing a helmet with an ear flap.”

As the 1970s turned into the 1980s, Nolan Ryan returned home to Texas, signing with the Houston Astros and becoming baseball’s first one million dollar per year player. The 1980s were a decade of milestones for Nolan Ryan as he passed Walter Johnson’s all-time strikeout mark, broke Sandy Koufax major league-record four no-hitters, and struck out the 5,000th batter of his career.

Before hanging up his spikes at age 46, Ryan topped the 300-win mark and hurled a record seventh no-hitter as a member of the Texas Rangers.