Remembering Willie McCovey

Willie McCovey 2012.jpg

Willie McCovey at the 2012 World Series parade (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

There is a statue of Willie McCovey across from AT&T Park at McCovey Point in China Basin Park, San Francisco. It is now adorned with flowers and other memorabilia in honor of the man who passed away on October 31, 2018. Willie McCovey will never be forgotten in San Francisco or the hearts of baseball fans every where. I never saw McCovey play. After all, all but 11 games in his 19-year MLB career were with National League teams. Growing up in an AL town, there weren’t many opportunities to see him play. But his reputation preceded him.

According to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, McCovey was nicknamed “Stretch” due to his ability to catch throws that were wide and high. The 6’4″ player also was known for his hard hit line drives, prompting Bob Gibson to call him “the scariest hitter in baseball.” The first baseman was signed by the Giants as an amateur free agent in March 1955 at the age of 17. After four years in the minors with the Sandersville Giants, Danville Leafs, Dallas Eagles, and Phoenix Giants, McCovey made his major league debut with the San Francisco Giants on July 30, 1959. He played with the Giants through the 1973 season and then was traded to the San Diego Padres. In August 1976, his contract was purchased by the Oakland A’s. He again signed with the Giants as a free agent in 1977, where he played until his retirement in 1980. In his 22 years in the majors, McCovey amassed 2,211 hits in 2,588 games. He hit 521 home runs and had a batting average of .270. After his playing days, McCovey served as a senior advisor to the Giants for 18 more years, until his death last week.

On Wednesday, the Giants’ President and CEO, Laurence M. Baer, stated: “San Francisco and the entire baseball community lost a true gentleman and legend, and our collective hearts are broken. 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.”

Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle noted that, unlike Willie Mays and the players that had moved with the team from New York in 1957, McCovey was the first Giants superstar for the San Francisco fans: “McCovey was a San Francisco Giant through and through, arriving in 1959.” In a series of heart-wrenching tweets, Barry Bonds said goodbye to McCovey, adding: “thank you for your mentorship and unconditional love for me and my family. You will be dearly missed.”

On Thursday, beginning at 11:30 am, the Giants will hold a public celebration of life for McCovey at AT&T Park. Those wishing to offer their condolences to the family may send letters to the team at the following address: San Francisco Giants, Attention: Forever 44, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107. Condolences may also be sent via email to


~ baseballrebecca