The San Francisco Giants have lost one of their legends.
Slugger and Hall of Famer Willie “Stretch” McCovey died on Wednesday at the age of 80. He suffered ongoing health issues and “passed away peacefully,” the Giants said.
But Giants fans will never forget one of their living monuments.
The six-time All-Star first baseman and National League MVP had his fair share of moments in his storied career. McCovey and other Giants legend Willie Mays formed a powerful duo in the lineup when they played together in the 1960s and early 70s.
Since he retired in 1980, McCovey was a staple at AT&T Park, attending nearly every Giants game. And every year, the Giants give out the Willie Mac Award to the most inspirational player on the team.
In 1973, the Giants traded McCovey to the San Diego Padres–and he later played across the bay for the Oakland A’s in 1976–but he left a lasting impact on the City of San Francisco.
Of course, his name will forever be memorialized at AT&T Park, with McCovey Cove beyond the right-field wall.
Here are the top 5 moments in McCovey’s storied career.
1. 4-for-4 in major league debut
McCovey endeared himself to Giants fans right away in his major-league debut on Jul. 30, 1959. As a 21-year-old, he went 4-for-4 against Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, including two triples and two RBIs. In that game at Seals Stadium, McCovey hit third, just behind Mays who hit second. The Giants handled the Phillies in that game 7-2. That year, McCovey won the Rookie of the Year award after playing just 52 games, the smallest sample size for someone to win that award in baseball history.
2. Lineout to end 1962 World Series
This may be a moment Giants fans want to forget, but it is still one of the most memorable moments in baseball history. In 1962, San Francisco took the New York Yankees to Game 7 of the World Series at Candlestick Park. With the Giants trailing 1-0, there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and runners on second and third. McCovey came up to the plate, hoping to bring in the tying and winning runs. The power-hitting first baseman hit it very hard, but the bad news was–it found a glove. The ball went straight into the mitt of second baseman Bobby Richardson, denying the Giants from their first championship in San Francisco. The Giants would not win a World Series until 38 years later.
3. 1969–His best season
McCovey had the best season of his career in 1969. The slugger hit a career-high 45 home runs, .656 slugging percentage, 1.108 OPS, and 126 RBIs. He hit .320 that year, the second-best batting average of his career. That year, he won his lone National League MVP award. And on one of baseball’s biggest stages, McCovey smashed two home runs in the All-Star game at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
4. No. 500
Back in the 1970s, it was a huge deal when a player hit 500 home runs. It was an exclusive club that cemented a player into the Hall of Fame. On Jun. 30, 1978, McCovey reached that plateau in his second stint with the Giants. He hit it off Atlanta Braves left-hander James Easterly at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium. The home run went to the opposite field, barely getting over the left-field wall. But it counted the same. McCovey became the 12th player to hit 500 home runs at the time. The Giants did, however, lose the game 10-9–the first game of a doubleheader. His last home run came in 1980, his 521st.
5. Two home runs in the same inning–twice
Players have hit two home runs in the same inning, and even two grand slams in one inning, but nobody has done the former twice–except McCovey. On Jun. 27, 1977, at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, he hit a solo home run in the sixth inning off the Reds’ Jack Billingham. In the same inning, he hit another home run, a grand slam, against Joe Hoerner. The Giants won that game 14-9.
Four years earlier, McCovey accomplished that same feat. On Apr. 12, 1973, Stretch rocked Candlestick Park by hitting two home runs in the fourth inning en route t a 9-3 victory. The home runs came off Jim Crawford and Gary Thomasson.
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