Rank O pedia
- 1B, LF, OF, RF, DH
- Stretch, Mac, Big Mac
- January 10, 1938
- 6' 4"
- 198 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 7-30-1959 with SFN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1959 ROOK, 1969 AsMVP, 1969 ML, 1969 MVP, 1977 HA
- Hall of Fame:
Willie McCovey was a fan favorite with the San Francisco Giants when he shared the limelight with Willie Mays and the two formed a powerful duo. In the late 1960s he was baseball’s best hitter, hitting as many as 45 homers in a season, despite the fact that pitcher's worked around him often. The Alabama-native used his sweet swing to launch 521 round trippers – a record for left-handed NL batters, until bested by Barry Bonds. McCovey was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
"McCovey didn't hit any cheap one[s]. When he belts a home run, he does it with such authority it seems like an act of God. You can't cry about it." — Walter Alston "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?" Charlie Brown, from Charles Schulz's December 22, 1962, Peanuts comic strip
On July 15, 1960, San Francisco fog played havoc with a Giants/Dodgers game. McCovey hit a ball into the gap and strolled to third with an "invisible triple" - prompting umpire Frank Dascoli to halt play for 24 minutes. Two days later the Giants sent McCovey down to the minors - the 1959 Rookie of the Year was hitting .244.
The circle was complete for McCovey late in his career. His last three years with the Giants, he was platooned with right-handed slugger Mike Ivie. The year after McCovey retired, in 1981, the Giants used Enos Cabell at first base. Yes, really.
McCovey was the best offensive player in the National League, and possibly baseball, from 1969-1971. In 1969 he peaked with 45 homers and 126 RBI. His .320 batting average was fifth in the league, but he won the other two legs of the triple crown. He also led the league in every important offensive measurement stat - OPS, TA, Runs Created, Batter Runs, slugging. On April 27, he hit three home runs in both games of a doubleheader! He edged Tom Seaver for the MVP award.
In December of 1962, and again in January of 1963, Charles M. Schulz penned "Peanuts" cartton strips that mentioned McCovey's near-game-winning hit in the World Series that previous fall. In the first one, Charlie Brown asks, "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?" and in the second he wonders, "Or why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball even two feet higher?"
Erasing a fellow Giant sluggers name from the record books, Willie McCovey hit his 513rd career homer, off the Cubs' Dennis Lamp, on June 14, 1979. Thus, McCovey became the all-time lefthanded HR hitter in National League history, surpassing Mel Ott. In 2001, another Giants slugger, Barry Bonds, eclipsed McCovey's mark.
Signed as an amateur free agent by New York Giants (March 12, 1955); Traded by San Francisco Giants with Bernie Williams to San Diego Padres in exchange for Mike Caldwell (October 25, 1973); Sold by San Diego Padres to Oakland Athletics (August 30, 1976); Granted free agency (November 1, 1976; Signed by San Francisco Giants as a free agent (January 6, 1977).
On June 30, 1978, McCovey hit his 500th home run, in the first game of the doubleheader, off Jamie Easterly.
On August 2, 1959, McCovey hit the first of his 521 major-league homers, off Pittsburgh's Ron Kline, as the Giants defeat the Pirates 5-3... On September 16, 1966, McCovey hit a 500-ft home run, reportedly the longest ever hit at Candlestick Park... On April 12, 1973, McCovey hit two home runs in the 4th inning of a 9-3 win over the Astros... McCovey's grand slam on May 30, 1975, was his third career pinch slam, tying the major-league record held by Ron Northey and Rich Reese. It was Big Mac's 16th lifetime bases-loaded homer, tying the NL record held by Hank Aaron... With the Giants for a second time, McCovey smashed two homers in the sixth inning on June 27, 1977, to pace a 14-9 victory over the Reds. McCovey became the first player to twice hit two dingers in one inning, and at the same time becames the all-time NL leader with 17 career grand slams.
On July 24, 1990, Vida Blue was married on the pitcher's mound at Candlestick Park. A crowd of some 50,000 fans attended what was called "Appreciation Day." The bride was chauffeured to the mound in a horse-drawn carriage, where Orlando Cepeda gave her away. The best man was Willie McCovey.
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