"Sixteen years ago today, we said good-bye," the country singer wrote on Instagram. "16 years later you continue to transcend your 'Ya Gotta Believe' spirit in giving hope to others. Please visit www.tugmcgraw.org to watch our tribute video about the Man who played Major League Baseball with the heart of a Little Leaguer."
Thinkin about 'Ol Tugger today#Repost @tugmcgraw
16 years ago today, we said good-bye. 16 years later you continue to transcend your "Ya Gotta Believe" spirit in giving hope to others. Please visit https://t.co/gRcWBvRmYz to watch our tribute video pic.twitter.com/jHIAcR3Qym
— Tim McGraw (@TheTimMcGraw) January 6, 2020
Tug McGraw passed away on Jan. 5, 2004 at age 59 following a bout with brain cancer.
In 2003, Tim McGraw started the Tug McGraw Foundation, which helps enhance the quality of life for children and adults with "neurological brain conditions such as brain tumors, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder."
The elder McGraw played Major League Baseball as a relief pitcher from 1965 to 1984. He won World Series rings with the 1969 New York Mets and the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies. For the latter championship, McGraw threw the final pitch, striking out the Kansas City Royals' Willie Wilson.
In between those World Series wins, Tug McGraw won over fans in New York City and Philadelphia with his "Ya Gotta Believe" catchphrase and outgoing personality.
Tug McGraw had a brief relationship in 1966 with Betty D'Agostino while playing minor league baseball in Jacksonville, Fla. After becoming pregnant with Tim McGraw, D'Agostino broke contact with Tug McGraw and relocated to Louisiana.
Tim McGraw did not meet Tug until after the future country star turned 17. Before discovering his own birth certificate at age 11, Tim McGraw believed that his stepdad, Horace Smith, was his biological father. His real dad's name had been scratched out on the document, but his occupation, baseball player, remained legible.
The McGraws eventually became close, as captured in the tribute video which shows the former MLB star interacting with his son and another Nashville superstar, daughter-in-law Faith Hill. The father and son even starred in a Bud Light commercial together.