Tim McGraw Shares Rare Insight Into His Complicated Relationship With Late Dad Tug McGraw

When Tim McGraw was 11 years old, he discovered that baseball player Tug McGraw was his biological father. In a new interview, the singer shared the lessons he learned from their relationship.

By Elyse Dupre Aug 25, 2021 5:07 PMTags
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Tim McGraw is opening up about his relationship with his late father Tug McGraw.

In a story for Esquire, the country music star shared the lessons he's learned in life, including those he took away from his time with his MLB pitcher dad.

"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,'" Tim noted to the magazine. "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?"

For most of his childhood, Tim thought his stepfather, Horace Smith, was his biological dad. It wasn't until he was a pre-teen that he discovered the truth about Tug. 

"I didn't know he was my dad," the singer told Larry King in 2013. "I was 11 years old, and I was rummaging around in mom's closet and found a birth certificate. I was growing up in Louisiana, and my mom was divorced, and we were barely getting by."

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Upon inspecting the document, Tim continued, he saw that "'McGraw' was scratched out and 'Smith' was written in by hand." He said his mom then contacted Tug, who was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies at the time, so he could meet Tim.

"I met Tug the first time when I was 11, and it was just a quick sort of lunch and then seeing him play the game," Tim recalled on Oprah's Master Class. "It certainly wasn't an acknowledgement that he was my father."

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The following year, he added, he "begged" his mom to take him to see the Phillies play the Houston Astros.

"She borrowed a car, and we drove to Houston and he was playing at the Astrodome," Tim told Oprah Winfrey. "And he'd left tickets for us 'cause she'd gotten in contact with his lawyer, I think, and his lawyer had said he'll leave tickets for you. We go to the Astrodome, we walk in, and they're warming up and he's down on the field. He always did this thing where a player would hit balls with a Fungo bat, and hit it up in the air and he would catch 'em behind his back. So, he was doing that, and I started yelling at him and then he wouldn't look at me. So, I spent 30 minutes trying to get this attention and he wouldn't look at me. So, I went and sat back down. And then I never saw him again until I was 18."

Eventually, Tim and Tug did form a bond. Tug died of brain cancer in 2004. And over the years, Tim has paid tribute to his dad on social media, including on the anniversary of Tug's passing and on his birthday

"In a lot of ways, that probably was a good driving force for me. You know, knowing that his blood was in me, you know, it inspired me. It did," Tim said to Oprah. "Whether he knew it or not or ever thought about it, he gave me something that you could never quantify. He gave me a dream of what I might could become because of who he was. He was my father, and what he had done with his life put something in me that I probably would have never had—I might not have ever had, who knows—but I certainly think that that was a driving force in me to think that I could become somebody." 

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