National Pastime Radio

July 23, 2013

George Vecsey, author of Stan Musial: An American Life and Baseball: A History of America’s Favorite Game, among others, was the main guest on yesterday’s Brian Lehrer Show.

You can listen to the segment below:

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Frank “Tug” McGraw was the subject of the “Not My Job” segment on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, featuring comedian Tig Notaro. Herewith, the relevant portion of her segment:

SAGAL: OK, Tig Notaro, we’ve asked you here to play a game we’re calling…

CARL KASELL: Tig, Meet Tug.


SAGAL: Frank Edwin McGraw, known as Tug McGraw, was one of the great relief pitchers in baseball, or at least one of the most colorful. We’re going to ask you three questions about your near namesake, Tug McGraw. If you get two right, you’ll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl’s voice on their voicemail. Carl, who is comedian Tig Notaro playing for?

KASELL: Tig is playing for Jeremy Meyer of Tempe, Arizona.

SAGAL: Ready to go?

NOTARO: Yeah, and if matters at all, I know who Tug McGraw is.

SAGAL: That’s great. OK, here we go. How did Tug McGraw get his nickname? Was it: A, as a boy, he liked to pull larger boys through the playground, like a tugboat; B, it was compromise between his mother’s choice of name, Tim, and his father’s, Doug; or C, his mother nicknamed him Tug because of his aggressive breastfeeding.


NOTARO: I’m going to go with the first option.

SAGAL: He liked to pull larger boys through the playground like a tugboat? The answer is C, the breastfeeding, at least that’s the story that Tug liked to tell later in life.*

NOTARO: I feel like I would have been a weirdo if I would have chosen that.

SAGAL: Yeah, don’t worry about your reputation. Just go for your instincts.

NOTARO: That is such a weird story. I can’t even move on.


SAGAL: I know. All right, next question. After recording the final out in the 1980 World Series as a pitcher for the Phillies, Tug McGraw said what: A, you guys are happy we won a world championship, but I’m happy I just made another 25 grand; B, isn’t all sport, indeed all human endeavor, pointless in the face of eternity; or C, New York can take this championship and stick it.

NOTARO: I’m going to say the first choice again.

SAGAL: You guys are happy we won a world championship, but I’m happy I just made another 25 grand? The audience says…

NOTARO: When you repeat it back to me, it makes me feel like I’ve picked another wrong answer.


SAGAL: Did you pick up that tone of condemnation in my voice? Because…

NOTARO: Yeah, it was just like Tig, the more I talk to you, the more I’m realizing how you failed three grades and dropped out of high school.


SAGAL: So you’re not going to pick the first one?

NOTARO: OK, the third one.


SAGAL: New York can take this championship and stick it?


SAGAL: You’re right, that’s what he said.


SAGAL: He later said he regretted that comment. He had played for some years for the New York Mets and felt bad about it. All right, last question, if you get this one right, you win. As a young player, Tug had a relationship with a waitress and was intimate with her, he says, just one time. But that single night in the late ’60s resulted in what: A, a lifelong habit of over-tipping; B, a vow of celibacy; or C, the country music star Tim McGraw.

NOTARO: C, Tim McGraw.

SAGAL: You are right.



SAGAL: Tug took off. The waitress later found out she was pregnant, and Tug never acknowledged that her son Tim was his until many years later. Carl, how did Tig Notaro do on our quiz?

KASELL: Tig, you had two correct answers, so you win for Jeremy Meyer.

SAGAL: Well done.


SAGAL: “Tig Notaro: Live” is available on iTunes, her podcast is “Professor Blastoff.” Tig Notaro, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT…DON’T TELL ME!.


NOTARO: Thank you.

SAGAL: Thanks, Tig, bye-bye.

* I seem to recall how McGraw got his nickname on the back of one of McGraw’s baseball cards and this certainly wasn’t it.

* * *

Bill Littlefield, host of Only a Game, NPR’s weekly sports program contributed this piece to the Sunday magazine supplement of the Boston Globe on “The fan I have become: When we grow up but our sports heroes don’t.”

By the way, Bill, I’m still waiting for a guest spot to discuss 501 Baseball Books. You’ve recently featured Dan Okrent, who served as editor of American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith; American history columnist Tony Horwitz who contributed a piece about female pitcher Jackie Mitchell’s striking out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig for an article for Smithsonian Magazine; Dwight Gooden (Doc: A Memoir); and Allen Barra (Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age).

Just sayin’. the risk of sounding somewhat whiny, the lack of “big time” response to 501 reminds me of the scene in A League of Their Own in which Dave Hooch, Marla’s dad, implores the scout Ernie Capadino to consider his daughter for a tryout. “I know my girl ain’t so pretty as these girls,” he says, referring to Dottie Henson and Kit Keller. I know my book ain’t so “pretty” as other baseball titles that have more involved publicity and marketing strategies, but I still think it’s worth some attention.

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