While not on a par with the aforementioned legends on the baseball diamond, Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw (who died from brain cancer in January) was nevertheless a hero to his fans in New York and Philadelphia. Ya Gotta Believe, written with Don Yaeger, is more than a recap of McGraw's athletic glories. It is a frank description of family dysfunction, despair (he was diagnosed late in life with bipolar disorder) and redemption. McGraw tells of his life as a typical pampered athlete, to whom women were “tomatoes.” It was during one of his liaisons that he fathered a son whose identity he denied for many years. That son grew up to be country music superstar Tim McGraw. The reconciliation between father and son makes Ya Gotta Believe (the title was McGraw's oft-repeated rallying cry for the 1973 pennant-winning Mets) one of the more honest sports books in many years. An epilogue describes McGraw's final days, spent in a Tennessee cabin with his son, Tim, by his side.
While other books may focus on disparate aspects of the game, biographies of baseball greats provide an educational and entertaining look at the way we were, warts and all.