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Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday …Willie Mc Covey

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I had two of the above baseball cards of Willie Mc Covey. Always wanted to see him hit homeruns but never wanted to see hit homeruns against the Mets, but he did …Mc Covey was scary coming to the plate very tall and strong. And could play defense at first base.

Mc Covey played nineteen seasons for the San Francisco Giants, and three more for the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics, between 1959 and 1980. He batted and threw left-handed and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.

One of the most intimidating power hitters of his era, McCovey was called “the scariest hitter in baseball” by pitcher Bob Gibson, an assessment with which Reggie Jackson concurred. McCovey’s powerful swing generated 521 home runs, 231 of which he hit inCandlestick Park, the most hit there by any player, and included a home run of September 16, 1966 described as the longest ever hit in that stadium.

In his Major League debut on July 30, 1959, McCovey went four-for-four against Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts of the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting two triples and two singles, en route to a .354 batting average that year, in which he won the NL Player of the Month award in August, his first full month in the majors (.373, 8 HR, 22 RBI). He then took National League Rookie of the Year honors while playing in just 52 games. He had a 22-game hitting streak, setting the mark for San Francisco Giants rookies that still stands, just four short of the all-time team record.

Three years later, he helped the Giants to the 1962 World Series against the New York Yankees. Perhaps McCovey’s best-known moment in baseball came in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7, with 2 outs and the Giants trailing 1–0. With Willie Mays on second base and Matty Alou on third, any base hit would likely have won the championship for the Giants. McCovey scorched a hard line drive that was snared by the Yankees’ second baseman Bobby Richardson, ending the series with a Yankees’ win. That would turn out to be the closest McCovey would get to playing on a world championship team.

McCovey spent many years at the heart of the Giants’ batting order along with fellow Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays. His best year statistically was 1969 when he hit 45 home runs, had 126 RBI and batted .320 to become the National League MVP. He would also win NL Player of the Month awards in July 1963 (.310, 13 HR, 27 RBI) and August 1969 (.315, 8, 22 RBI)

In the early years of Candlestick Park, the Giants home stadium, the area behind right field was open except for three small bleacher sections. When McCovey came to bat, typically those bleachers would empty as the fans positioned themselves on the flat ground hoping to catch a McCovey home run ball – anticipating the gathering of boats inMcCovey Cove, a generation later, when Barry Bonds would bat.

In his 22-year career, McCovey batted .270, with 521 home runs and 1,555 RBI, 1,229 runs scored, 2,211 hits, 353 doubles, 46 triples, a .374 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. He also hit 18grand slam home runs in his career, which is still a National League record.

McCovey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. It was his first year of eligibility and he appeared on 346 of 425 ballots cast (81.4 percent). In 1999, he ranked 56th on The Sporting Newslist of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players,and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Since 1980, the Giants have awarded the Willie Mac Award to honor his spirit and leadership. The inlet of San Francisco Bay beyond the right field fence of AT&T Park, historically known as China Basin, has been redubbed McCovey Cove in his honor. Across McCovey Cove from the park a statue of McCovey was erected and the land on which it stands named McCovey Point. The Giants retired his uniform number 44 on September 21, 1980, which he wore in honor of Hank Aaron, a fellow Mobile, Alabama native.

McCovey was inducted to the Afro Sports Hall of Fame, February 7, 2009 in Oakland, California.

McCovey is a senior advisor with the Giants

Smallthoughts: Old School  Tuesday spotlights…Willie Mc Covey

MLB debut
July 30, 1959, for the San Francisco Giants
Last MLB appearance
July 6, 1980, for the San Francisco Giants
MLB statistics
Batting average .270
Hits 2,211
Home runs 521
Runs batted in 1,555
Teams
Career highlights and awards

 

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