Remembering Willie Mac

Hall-of -Famer Willie McCovey mashed against National League pitchers for 22 seasons, 19 of which were with the San Francisco Giants. He earned respect and admiration during that time with his performance on the field (.270 average, 521 home runs, 1555 RBIs) and his manner off of it.

Not to disparage his teammates, but his legacy in San Francisco is such that the body of water beyond the right field seats is McCovey Cove, not Willie Mays Cove and the annual award given to the best Giants teammate isn’t the Kevin Mitchell award or the Juan Marichal award, it’s the Willie Mac award.

The Spitter gathered a couple of stories about the man, who passed away this week at the age of 80.

Journalist George Warren:

“As a kid growing up in the 1960’s I lived 22 miles south of Candlestick Park and could always find a cheap seat at Giants games– even a free seat. There was a Bay Area dairy called Christopher Farms that offered free admission to outfield seats for kids who’d cut a coupon from a milk carton.

Willie McCovey and Willie Mays were the stars of the team during those years, but fans especially LOVED McCovey. I really liked McCovey, too, but I don’t think I appreciated at the time what a great ballplayer he was. I just assumed most probably ballplayers could do what he did. Same with Mays. It wasn’t until much later that I understood how special those guys were.

Decades later when I was working as a TV reporter I got a chance to meet the two Willies at an event in San Francisco. They couldn’t have been nicer and seemed to really enjoy each other’s company. McCovey still had that fabulous smile.”

McCovey was NL Rookie of thr Year in 1959 and the MVP 10 years later.

From the Associated Press:

“You knew right away he wasn’t an ordinary ballplayer,” Hall of Famer Hank Aaron said, courtesy of the Hall of Fame. “He was so strong and he had the gift of knowing the strike zone. There’s no telling how many home runs he would have hit if those knees weren’t bothering him all the time and if he played in a park other than Candlestick.”

Some families passed down their McCovey stories to the next generation.

Attorney Joren Ayala Bass:

“While driving across the country in the 60s, my grandparents stopped with my mom and her 3 siblings in Houston to watch the Giants play the Astros. Willie was at bat and was angry at the ump for a terrible two-sttrike call. Willie looked up and saw that the Astrodome staff had turned on a light that meant, if Willie struck out, beer was free for the rest of the day. (Imagine that now!) Willie struck out intentionally and the Astros fans loved him, at least for that day.”

He was all that was good about the game. He played hard, he played hurt, he played for the fans.

That’s a helluva legacy.

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