Tim McGraw may have grown up without knowing his father, pro baseball star Tug McGraw, but the two later formed a special bond.
The country music singer, 54, only learned at age 11, when he read it on his birth certificate, that his dad was the former New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher. But in a new interview with Esquire, Tim McGraw said there were never any hard feelings toward the athlete.
"People ask me, 'How could you have a relationship with your father? You were growing up in nothing. He was a millionaire baseball player. He knew you were there, and he didn’t do anything.' But when I found out Tug McGraw was my dad, it gave me something in my little town in Louisiana, something that I would have never reached for. How could I ever be angry?" he said.
The "Humble and Kind" singer opened up about his relationship with his dad, who died of brain cancer in 2004 at age 59, during a 2019 visit to TODAY.
"I think a lot of people don’t realize I didn’t grow up with Tug," he said. "I didn’t know Tug was my dad. I found my birth certificate when I was 11 years old. And, like I said, we didn’t have a whole lot, and I was in my mom’s closet, I was digging through something and found my birth certificate. It said McGraw. My name was Smith as a kid because my stepdad’s name was Horace Smith."
After meeting for the first time later that same year, the father-son duo didn't see each other again until Tim McGraw was 18, and later grew close. Though Tug McGraw wasn't in his life when he was a child, Tim McGraw said simply knowing his dad was a famous athlete made him believe anything was possible when it came to his own future.
"It changed what I thought I could do with my life coming from the circumstances I came from," he said. "I felt like when I found that out, you know, he’s a professional baseball player who’s successful, to me, it made me think that blood is in my veins, so that ability is in there.
"So I found sort of that grit inside me that he must have had in order to succeed at what he did. And it changed what I thought I could make out of my life," added the singer, who shares three daughters with his wife, fellow country music star Faith Hill, 53.
In 2015, McGraw paid tribute to his dad when he threw the first pitch at Game 4 of the World Series between the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals.
McGraw stepped up to the pitcher's mound dressed in a Mets jersey. His jersey number? 45 — the same number his dad wore when the Mets triumphed in the 1969 World Series.
In a since-deleted Instagram post, McGraw gushed of his moment on the mound, "What an honor!" and added a hashtag of his dad's famous catchphrase, #YaGottaBelieve.