“Ya Gotta Believe.” It’s a great sports quote, spoken from the mouth of one of Philadelphia’s greatest athletes.
Only, he said it for the Mets.
Tug McGraw’s notable saying, which now adorns the Phillies hallway at the club’s spring training home at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida, was said by McGraw… but in 1973 when he played for the Mets. McGraw helped New York claim the National League pennant before the Mets to Oakland in the World Series that season. From a 2015 MLB.com story on the Mets by Marty Noble:
The story: McGraw met with a friend, Joe Badamo, midday on July 9, 1973. Bandamo was, among other things, a motivational speaker. After McGraw sought Badamo and admitted to him that his confidence had been pierced by too many line drives, Badamo did his motivational best to resurrect his buddy’s on-mound self-esteem. According to Tug himself, Badamo said, “You’ve got to believe,” more than once that afternoon. The words immediately became Tug’s mantra.
The Mets were to play the Astros at Shea Stadium that night. When McGraw arrived at the clubhouse that afternoon, he began to spread the word to anyone who would listen, and even those who wouldn’t. “You’ve got to believe,” he said, repeating himself and increasing the volume. It was Tug being Tug.
As that famous Mets story goes, the rest of the Mets actually started to believe, leading the Mets to back to the Fall Classic two seasons before McGraw left New York to star for the Phillies.
That makes this kind of awkward.
McGraw did bring back the motivational catch phrase in 1980, and he was most certainly a driving force in helping the Phillies win the World Series that year. And yet, it was never as synonymous with the Phillies as it ever would be with the Mets, even if the one thing connecting those two teams was McGraw’s excitable personality, itself.
So, yes, the Phillies can also lay a claim to the phrase. But, no, they really shouldn’t.
For what it’s worth — and smacked on a shirt, “ya gotta believe” is probably still worth a lot — the trademark is registered to the Tug McGraw Foundation, originally filed in 2007 and registered in October, 2011. McGraw, who retired on Valentine’s Day in 1985 (as the foundation’s website says, “to show love for the game” of baseball) played 19 years in the major leagues, nine for the Mets and 10 for the Phillies. He passed away in 2004 after contracting a brain tumor while working for the Phillies during spring training in 2003. The Mets wore a “ya gotta believe” patch on their uniforms during the 2004 season.
The Phillies wore a shamrock.
Given the quote is a popular saying placed on a wall in a team facility, it’s not as if the Phillies are violating any trademark laws. You’ve got to believe…. they’re probably just trying to annoy Mets fans.