Willie McCovey

From BR Bullpen

1969 Topps

Willie Lee McCovey
(Stretch, Mac, or Big Mac)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1986

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]


"There's no comparison between McCovey and anybody else in the league." — Sparky Anderson

Willie McCovey was Rookie of the Year in 1959 at age 21 and in 1980 was still playing at age 42. He hit 521 lifetime home runs and was the 1969 MVP with an impressive Adjusted OPS of 209 (tied for 30th on the all-time single-season list).

McCovey was the same age as Orlando Cepeda and came up one year after him with the San Francisco Giants. Since the two had the same general skill set (both were sluggers who could play first base and sort of play left field), Willie did not always get playing time. McCovey did not receive over 350 at bats until his fifth season in the big leagues. In the 1962 World Series, he and Cepeda mostly platooned. Cepeda was in five games while McCovey, who hit fourth or fifth in the lineup, was in four games. Cepeda was traded in 1966 while McCovey played almost his entire career with the Giants.

He played in the major leagues in four different decades. He hit his 500th home run on June 30, 1978 off Jamie Easterly of the Atlanta Braves. McCovey's .270 lifetime average is a bit misleading since he played much of his career in the second dead-ball era when averages were relatively low. He added copious walks, finishing with a .374 lifetime OBP.

Two of the most similar players are his contemporaries Willie Stargell and Harmon Killebrew. His first baseball card appearance was in the 1960 Topps set.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 8, 1986 by the Baseball Writers Association of America. His #44 was retired by the Giants at the end of the 1980 season. Since 1980, the Giants have awarded the Willie Mac Award to the most inspirational player on the team in Willie's honor. The inlet behind the right field wall at Oracle Park is known as McCovey Cove.

In 1996, he plead guilty to several tax fraud chargs for failure to report revenues from signing autographs and participating in memorabilia shows in previous years. He was sentenced to a fine and probation, but in one of President Barack Obama's final acts in January 2017, he received a full pardon. His was one of 273 pardons and commutations signed by Obama in his last days as President. His last public appearance was at the final home game played by the Giants on September 30, 2018. He was confined to a wheelchair by then and died a month later, at the age of 80.

"Guys used to kid Drysdale about (McCovey). Willie was the one guy Don was reluctant to face. In the four and a half years I played with Don, I think McCovey is the only player he was afraid of physically." - Don Sutton

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 1959 NL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 1959 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 6-time NL All-Star: (1963, 1966 & 1968-1971)
  • NL MVP (1969)
  • 1969 All-Star Game MVP
  • 1977 NL Comeback Player of the Year Award
  • NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1969)
  • 3-time NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1968-1970)
  • 3-time NL OPS Leader (1968-1970)
  • 3-time NL Home Runs Leader (1963, 1968 & 1969)
  • 2-time NL RBI Leader (1968 & 1969)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader (1970)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 12 (1962, 1963, 1965-1970, 1973-1975 & 1977)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 7 (1963 & 1965-1970)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1963 & 1969)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (1963 & 1968-1970)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1963 & 1969)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1986

1968 1969 1970
Bob Gibson Willie McCovey Johnny Bench
NL Rookie of the Year
1958 1959 1960
Orlando Cepeda Willie McCovey Frank Howard

Records Held[edit]

  • Career grand slams in the National League, 18
  • Career grand slams as a pinch hitter, 3 (tied)

Further reading[edit]

  • Anthony Castrovince: "Hall of Fame slugger McCovey dies at 80", mlb.com, October 31, 2018. [1]
  • Steve Gardner: "Baseball Hall of Famer, San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey dies at 80", USA Today, October 31, 2018. [2]
  • Chris Haft: "Forever a Giants treasure, McCovey turns 80: Beloved Hall of Famer remains a key figure in organization", mlb.com, January 10, 2018. [3]
  • Chris Haft: "The legend who dominated D.C.'s last ASG: Giants slugger McCovey was MVP of '69 Midsummer Classic for 2-HR game", mlb.com, June 17, 2018. [4]¸
  • Chris Haft: "McCovey's legacy: 'Mr. San Francisco Giant'", mlb.com, October 31, 2018. [5]
  • Matt Kelly: "Top 10 moments in McCovey's HOF career", mlb.com, October 31, 2018. [6]
  • Steve Kroner and John Shea: "Willie McCovey: Giants legend dead at 80", San Francisco Chronicle, October 31, 2018. [7]
  • Willie McCovey (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, July 1973, pp. 35-37. [8]

Related Sites[edit]