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Willie Lee McCovey (born January 10, 1938 in ), nicknamed "Big Mac" and "Stretch", is a former Major League Baseball first baseman. He played nineteen seasons for the San Francisco Giants, and three more for the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics, between and . He batted and threw left-handed and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in .

Professional career

Prior to playing for the San Francisco Giants, McCovey played for a Giants' farm club in Dallas, Texasmarker that was part of the Class AA Southern League. In that league, he did not participate when his team played in Shreveport, Louisianamarker due to segregation in that city. He later played for the Pacific Coast League Phoenix Giants just prior to joining the San Francisco Giants.

San Francisco Giants (1959-73)

In his Major League debut on July 30, 1959, McCovey went four-for-four against Hall-of-Famermarker Robin Roberts en route to a .354 batting average that year, in which he won National League Rookie of the Year honors while playing in just 52 games.

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.

In the early years of Candlestick Parkmarker, 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 in McCovey Covemarker, a generation later, when Barry Bonds would bat.

San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics (1974-76)

In , McCovey was traded to the San Diego Padres; without him, the Giants' fortunes declined. Near the end of the season, the Oakland Athletics purchased his contract, but he would only play eleven games for them.

Return to San Francisco (1977-80)



McCovey returned to the Giants in . That year, during a June 27 game against the Cincinnati Reds, he became the first player to hit two home runs in one inning twice in his career (the first was on April 12, 1973). One was a grand slam and he became the first National Leaguer to hit seventeen. At age 39, he had 28 home runs and 86 RBI and was named the Comeback Player of the Year.

On June 30, 1978, at Atlantamarker's Fulton County Stadiummarker, McCovey hit his 500th home run, and two years later, on May 3 at Montrealmarker's Olympic Stadiummarker, his 521st and last home run, off Scott Sanderson of the Montreal Expos. This home run gave McCovey the distinction, along with Ted Williams (with whom he was tied in home runs) and Rickey Henderson of homering in four different decades.

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.

Legacy



McCovey was inducted into the Hall of Famemarker in . 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 News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Since , the Giants have awarded the Willie Mac Award to honor his spirit and leadership. The inlet of San Francisco Baymarker beyond the right field fence of AT&T Parkmarker, historically known as China Basin, has been redubbed McCovey Covemarker in his honor. The Giants retired his uniform number 44, which he wore in honor of Hank Aaron, a fellow Mobile, Alabama native.

McCovey was inducted to the Afro Sports Hall of Fame [www.afrosportshall.com], February 7, 2009 in Oakland, California. The mission of the Afro Sports Hall of Fame is to broaden the public’s understanding of African American/Ethnic history and the role of diversity and cultural tolerance in the growth of professional sports.

McCovey is a senior advisor with the Giants.

Retirement

In 1996, McCovey was fined and given two years' probation for tax charges stemming from inadequate reporting of income earned from 1988 to 1990.

In September 2003, McCovey and a business partner opened McCovey's Restaurant, a baseball-themed sports bar and restaurant, located in Walnut Creekmarker, Californiamarker.

Pop Culture References

Two months after McCovey's line drive that ended the 1962 World Series, the December 22, 1962 comic strip of Peanuts depicts Charlie Brown and Linus van Pelt brooding silently for three panels, before Charlie Brown finally shouts "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?". The next month, on January 28, 1963, Charlie Brown and Linus are again brooding before Charlie Brown exclaims "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball even two feet higher?"

See also



References

  1. CATCHING UP WITH WILLIE MCCOVEY / Back in the swing of things / Giants great on mend after surgery
  2. Ex-baseball star Willie McCovey gets probation, fine in tax fraud case - former player for the San Francisco Giants - Brief Article | Jet | Find Articles at BNET.com


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