Tim McGraw, via social media, paid tribute Tuesday to his uncle Hank, the eclectic, free-spirited, aging hippy who celebrated his 78th birthday.
Hank is the older brother of the late Tug McGraw, the baseball star who happens to be Tim’s dad. Stories from families and friends suggest that Hank McGraw was the best athlete of the family. But he stayed stuck in the minors, in part, because he wouldn’t compromise his beliefs.
Tim McGraw posted on Twitter: “Happy Birthday to our uncle Hank McGraw! One of the coolest dudes to ever walk the planet. He was a great athlete who put his principles first and his career second.
“Uncle Hank you have taught my daughters by example in how equality matters on all levels at all times… We love you and Happy 78th!!”
Who Is Hank McGraw, The Uncle of Tim McGraw
Most fans of Tim McGraw are well aware that the country superstar didn’t know his birth father, Tug McGraw, until Tim was 11. Up until then, Tim McGraw thought his father was Horace Smith, his mother’s husband. But his mother and Tug McGraw had a brief affair when she was 18 and Tug McGraw was a minor league baseball player in Florida.
Tug McGraw, a pitcher, won World Series championships with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. But Hank, his big brother, was the star quarterback and standout catcher on the high school baseball team.
In 1961, the Mets, a year away from their premiere as an expansion team in the National League, signed Hank McGraw to a $15,000 contract. Hank asked the Mets to give Tug a look.
Hank McGraw Was A Bohemian Baseball Player Who Stood Up For Rights Of Others
On Tuesday, Tim McGraw posted an in-depth feature that Sports Illustrated wrote on Hank back in 2002. Hank talked of how he stood up for Black players in the early 1960s. And he said he got in trouble for making beaded necklaces for the girlfriends of some of his teammates.
By the late 1960s, Hank McGraw said he was suspended by his manager because he refused to cut his hair. The team sold his rights to an independent squad in Hawaii. Hank McGraw played out the string. He spent a dozen years in the minors.
The uncle of Tim McGraw found work as a coach, a gold miner, and as an artist. He helped run his brother’s foundation. And in 2012, he represented Tug McGraw, who died in 2004, when the Mets officially celebrated their 50-years anniversary.
He also got to know Tim McGraw, a baseball player in high school and college, and his family. Tim McGraw said his uncle went on tour with him, sometimes popping up on stage, using a broom as an air guitar.
Some Hankisms From The SI Article
From the article Tim McGraw posted, here are some of his uncle’s thoughts.
On the game of baseball, Hank McGraw said:
“The spiritual side of the game is what I’d like to teach. People say great athletes block out the fans and noise and distractions—the hell they do. They take it in. There’s a humility in a pure athlete like (Derek) Jeter that allows him to disappear into the energy of the game. There are possibilities in baseball that most players never tune in to, space for art and dance and rhythm.
“Baseball will go on no matter what any of us idiots does. We’re just passing through the movie. But I’ll tell you what makes me angriest about sports today, and what I’d like to teach kids: How we treat opponents. An opponent should get more respect on a ball field than Jesus or your parents. Because without an opponent it’s just practice, and you’ll never find out what matters. You’ll never find out about yourself.”
On why he didn’t make it to the Majors:
“Baseball, relationships, jobs, anything that ever went wrong—I’m 50 or 51 percent to blame, and that’s a low-end estimate. I don’t really think the reason I didn’t make the big leagues had to do with hair or being a rebel. To be honest, I never felt like I deserved to make it. I never felt I was good enough.”
Happy 78th, Hank McGraw.
For more Outsider coverage on Tim McGraw, click here, here and here. He was busy last week, playing at the presidential inauguration, as his new song “Undivided” was the most added track in country radio history.