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Updated: November 1, 2018
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Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2018 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by San Francisco Giants, Henk Seppen & Marco Stoovelaar)


...Willie McCovey...
(1938 - 2018)
(© Photo: San Francisco Giants)
San Francisco Giants-legend and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey passed away

STANFORD, Santa Clara County, California (USA) - Willie McCovey, legendary slugger of the San Francisco Giants and Hall of Famer, passed away on Wednesday-afternoon (October 31) at age 80. In the past few years, McCovey had several health problems. A public celebration of McCovey's life will be announced at a later date.

In a statement on behalf of Willie McCovey's family and the organization, the San Francisco Giants released the following statement:
It is with great sadness that we announce that San Francisco Giants Legend and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey passed away peacefully this afternoon at the age of 80 after losing his battle with ongoing health issues.
,,San Francisco and the entire baseball community lost a true gentleman and legend, and our collective hearts are broken'', said Giants President & Chief Executive Officer Laurence M. Baer. ,,Willie was a beloved figure throughout his playing days and in retirement. He will be deeply missed by the many people he touched. For more than six decades, he gave his heart and soul to the Giants - as one of the greatest players of all time, as a quiet leader in the clubhouse, as a mentor to the Giants who followed in his footsteps, as an inspiration to our Junior Giants, and as a fan cheering on the team from his booth''.

Willie Lee McCovey was born on January 10, 1938 in Mobile, Alabama. In the same city, four years earlier, McCovey's idol Hank Aaron also was born. When McCovey was promoted to the Major League-team of the Giants, he choose uniform number 44 in honor of Aaron, who was wearing the same number while playing for Milwaukee Braves (later Atlanta Braves).

McCovey made his professional debut in 1955 when he played in the Minor Leagues for the New York Giants, who moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season.. In his Major League-debut on July 30, 1959, McCovey and the Giants played against the Philadelphia Phillies, facing future Hall of Fame-pitcher Robin Roberts. McCovey went 4-for-4 with two triples, scored three runs and batted in two runs, leading the Giants to a 7-2 victory. In the rest of that season, McCovey showed his strength as a lefthanded hitter and batted .354 with 13 homeruns and 38 runs batted in. McCovey remained with the team for the remainder of the season and played in 52 games. He had a 22-game hitting streak, which is a record that still stands for Giants-rookies. After the season, he was voted Rookie of the Year in the National League.

...Willie McCovey is honored by the Giants on...
...September 18, 1977 with Willie McCovey Day...
...On the bottom photo, he greets former teammate Willie Mays...
(© Photos: Marco Stoovelaar)
Through 1973, McCovey remained a powerhitter in the heart of the batting order for the Giants. In those years, as leftfielder, he played together with another Giants-legend, Willie Mays, who was the centerfielder of the team in 1951-1972 (except 1953).

McCovey was named Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1969 when he batted .320, hit 45 homeruns and batted in 126 runs.

On October 25, 1973, McCovey was traded by the Giants to the San Diego Padres. A trade which is still criticized by Giants-fans. On August 30, 1976, the Oakland Athletics purchased his contract from the Padres, but he played in only 11 games for the A's. In those years, the results of the Giants declined. When the Padres visited the Giants, McCovey got bigger ovations than players from the home team.

On November 1, 1976, McCovey became a Free Agent and on January 6, 1977, he was re-signed by the Giants. McCovey was very popular and was much loved by the Giants-fans.

To celebrate his return to the Giants, Willie McCovey Day was organized in his honor on September 18, 1977 at Candlestick Park, just over a month after he had hit his record 18th grand slam-homerun. On that day, he was driven on the field in a Cadillac and received several gifts from the club. The Giants played against Cincinnati Reds that day, attended by more than 24,000 spectators. The game initially was a pitching-duel between Bob Knepper, who went the distance for the Giants, and Paul Moskau, who threw 7 1/3 inning for the Reds. Cincinnati scored a run in the seventh and eighth inning to take the lead. The Giants came alongside in the bottom of the eighth scoring two runs. In the bottom of the ninth, Derrel Thomas singled for the Giants with one out and moved to third base on a 2-out single by Bill Madlock. The Giants then won 3-2 when McCovey delivered a walk-off single on what was a special day for him. After the season, in which he hit 28 homeruns, McCovey was named National League Comeback Player of the Year.

Willie McCovey, who was a first baseman and leftfielder, played in 22 seasons in the Major League (1959-1980), nineteen of which he played for the Giants. In his long career, the lefthanded hitting McCovey recorded 2,211 basehits, including 521 homeruns, 353 doubles and 46 triples. He batted in 1,555 runs and scored 1,229. His career batting average was .270. McCovey played in the Major League for four decades and retired after the 1980 season. He is one of only four players to have hit a homerun in four different decades.

McCovey played in six All Star Games. Three times, he led the National League in homeruns (1963, 1968, 1969). When he retired, McCovey trailed only legendary Lou Gehrig in career grand slams with 18, but he still is the recordholder with that total in the National League. He hit three of his grand slams as a pinch-hitter. McCovey, nicknamed 'Stretch', hit the most homeruns (231) at Candlestick Park, which was the home of the Giants in 1960-1999. He holds the Major League-record for most seasons played (22) as a first baseman. Until 2001, McCovey had hit the most homeruns (521) by a lefthanded hitter in the National League. In 2001, the record was broken by another San Francisco-slugger, Barry Bonds.

...Willie McCovey's Plaquette... the Hall of Fame...
In 1980, the Giants retired his uniform number 44.

In 1986, McCovey was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Since 1980, the team awards a trophy to the Most Inspirational Player of the Giants who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership which was consistently shown by McCovey during his career. The recognizion is named after McCovey and is called the Willie Mac Award.

In honor of McCovey, the portion of San Francisco Bay behind rightfield at AT&T Park (the stadium of the Giants since 2000) is named McCovey Cove. In 2003, the Giants unveiled a statue of McCovey at China Basin Park, which is located across the stadium on the southern shoreline of McCovey Cove.

In 2008, McCovey belonged to the inaugural group of 48 former players who were honored with a plaquette at the Giants Wall of Fame, which was created as part of the 50th anniversary of the Giants moving to San Francisco.

The last 18 years, McCovey was a Senior Advisor for the Giants. In recent years, McCovey got around in a wheelchair, but he remained a frequent visitor at AT&T Park. There, from his own private suite, he watched the Giants-games, including the final game of this season. On April 3 of this year, which was Opening Day of the new season, the Giants celebrated their 60th anniversary in San Francisco. Willie McCovey and Willie Mays were special guests amongst the dignitaries and former players attending the ceremony on the field before the game.

(October 31)

...Left: A view at McCovey Cove in San Francisco Bay behind rightfield of AT&T Park...
...Right: Across the Bay, at China Basin, the statue of Willie McCovey stands...
...In 2013, the stadium was the site of the World Baseball Classic Final...
(© Both Photos: Henk Seppen)

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