Tim McGraw Details Confusion Over Last Name, Forgiving His World-Series Winning Father

by Jennifer Shea
Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Country star Tim McGraw grew up in Louisiana with his mother and stepfather. For years, he did not know that two-time World Series champ Tug McGraw was his real father.

In a new interview with the “Huuuge Fan” podcast on Pandora, McGraw talked about his famous father. And he described the process of finding out his father’s true identity, then forgiving him.

His Childhood

“My mom was in several abusive relationships when we were young,” McGraw confided. “And her first husband, who I thought was my dad, growing up, was a truck driver and cowboy… One of those big-hearted guys, but it had a dark side to it. So we grew up with a lot of that with my two sisters, who were his daughters.” 

At some point, McGraw’s mother divorced the truck driver, whose last name was Smith. When she remarried, McGraw said, the situation for him and his sisters got even worse.

“But in the process… of when she first remarried, I found my birth certificate in her closet,” he explained. “I was looking for, I don’t know, Christmas presents that she’d hidden in her closet. And I found my birth certificate.”

Tim McGraw had been going by Smith his entire life, because that was his stepfather’s name. He believed his stepfather was his real father until he made that fateful discovery at age 11. 

On the birth certificate he found in his mother’s closet, there were two names. The name “McGraw” had been scratched out and written over it was the name “Smith.”

“And then it said my father was a professional baseball player and it had his name,” McGraw said. “Of course, as an 11-year-old kid you see something like that, it’s a little bit of a freakout. But the odd thing about it was, I had Tug’s baseball card on my wall, and he was one of my favorite players because he was such a character.” 

McGraw immediately called his mother. They had a memorable afternoon together discussing what really happened.

“She came home from work and picked me up at home,” McGraw continued. “And we rode around all day, and she told me the entire story of it. So it’s a lot to take in as a kid, but I think, I always look back at this one moment or series of moments in my life.”

Tim McGraw Forgives His Father

“You know, people always say, ‘How could you ever forgive Tug?’ or ‘How could you have anything to do with Tug?’” he added. “And it wasn’t about that for me. I think it gave me something, whether he knew it or not, but it gave me a fire in my soul that I could be something in my life. That I could accomplish something in my life because of what he did and what he did with his life.”

“I thought, ‘OK, if he’s got that in him then I’ve got that in me,’” McGraw said. “’And I need to find out and figure out a way to use it.’”

Tug wanted nothing to do with his son at first; he had subsequently married and fathered two other children, according to Biography.com. But by the mid-1980s, he had thawed somewhat and even tried to pay his son back for the years of absence.

Fortunately, McGraw lived long enough to see his son’s country music career take off. He died at Tim’s cabin near Nashville.