Willie Lee McCovey (January 10, 1938 – October 31, 2018) was an American Major League Baseball first baseman. Known as "Stretch" during his playing days, and later also nicknamed "Mac" and "Willie Mac," he is best known for his long tenure as one of the sport's greatest stars with the San Francisco Giants.
Over a 22-year career between 1959 and 1980 he played 19 seasons with the Giants and three more for the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics. A fearsome left-handed hitter, he was a six-time All-Star, three-time home run champion, MVP, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 in his first year of eligibility, only the 16th man so honored.
McCovey was known as a dead-pull line drive hitter, causing some teams to employ a shift against him. Seventh on baseball's all-time home run list when he retired, McCovey was called "the scariest hitter in baseball" by pitcher Bob Gibson, seconded by similarly feared slugger Reggie Jackson. McCovey lashed 521 home runs, 231 launched in Candlestick Park, the most there by any player. One on September 16, 1966, was described as the longest ever hit in that stadium.
McCovey at the 2012 World Series parade
|Born: January 10, 1938|
|Died: October 31, 2018 (aged 80)|
|July 30, 1959, for the San Francisco Giants|
|Last MLB appearance|
|July 6, 1980, for the San Francisco Giants|
|Runs batted in||1,555|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Vote||81.4% (first ballot)|
McCovey was born in Mobile, Alabama, the seventh child of ten born to Frank McCovey, a railroad worker, and Esther. He began working part time at the age of 12 and dropped out of high school without graduating in order to work full time.
Despite being passed on by scout Ed Scott, who signed Hank Aaron for the Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns, McCovey was invited to a New York Giants tryout camp in Melbourne, Florida while he was living and working in Los Angeles. The invitation came from Giants scout and former Negro League owner Alex Pompez.
In 1955 McCovey made his professional debut. The Sandersville Giants of the Georgia State League in Sandersville, Georgia had McCovey on their roster, with McCovey having signed a contract for $175.00 per month. McCovey was 17 years old, 6'2", 165 pounds, and proceeded to hit .305 with 19 home runs, scoring 113 runs in 107 games.
On his way to the Major Leagues, McCovey played for a San Francisco Giants' farm club in Dallas, Texas that was part of the Class AA Southern League. He did not participate when his team played in Shreveport, Louisiana due to segregation in that city. He later played for the Pacific Coast League Phoenix Giants just prior to being called up by the San Francisco Giants.
In his Major League debut on July 30, 1959, McCovey went four-for-four against Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts of the Philadelphia Phillies with two singles and two triples. In 52 major league games, he had a .354 batting average and 13 home runs. He was named the National League's (NL) Rookie of the Year. He won the NL Player of the Month Award in August, his first full month in the majors (.373, 8 HR, 22 RBI). He had a 22-game hitting streak, setting the mark for San Francisco Giants rookies, four short of the all-time team record.
Three years later, McCovey helped the Giants to the 1962 World Series against the New York Yankees, the only World Series appearance of his career. In the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, with two outs and the Giants trailing 1–0, Willie Mays was on second base and Matty Alou was on third base. Any base hit would likely have won the championship for the Giants. McCovey hit a hard line drive that was snared by the Yankees' second baseman Bobby Richardson, ending the series with a Yankees' win.
The moment was immortalized in two Peanuts comic strips by Charles M. Schulz. The first ran on December 22, 1962, with Charlie Brown sitting silently alongside Linus for three panels before suddenly lamenting, "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?" The second, from January 28, 1963, featured Charlie Brown breaking an identical extended silence by crying, "Or why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball even two feet higher?" 26 years later, on the occasion of his Hall of Fame election, McCovey was asked how he would like his career to be remembered. “As the guy who hit the ball over Bobby Richardson’s head in the seventh game,” replied McCovey.
McCovey spent many years at the heart of the Giants' batting order, along with fellow Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays. His best year statistically was 1969, when he hit 45 home runs, had 126 RBI and batted .320 to become the National League MVP. He won NL Player of the Month awards in July 1963 (.310, 13 HR, 27 RBI) and August 1969 (.315, 8 HR, 22 RBI). In 1963 he and Hank Aaron tied for the NL lead with 44 home runs.
In the early years of Candlestick Park, the Giants home stadium, the area behind right field was open except for three small bleacher sections. When McCovey came to bat, typically those bleachers would empty as the fans positioned themselves on the flat ground, hoping to catch a McCovey home run ball.
On October 23, 1973, the Giants traded McCovey and Bernie Williams to the San Diego Padres for Mike Caldwell. The Giants had been trading their higher-priced players and gave McCovey input into his destination. McCovey played in 128 games in 1974 and 122 games in 1975. He hit 22 home runs in 1974 and 23 in 1975.
In 1976, McCovey struggled, and lost the starting first base job to Mike Ivie. He batted .203 with seven home runs in 71 games. Near the end of the season, the Oakland Athletics purchased his contract from the Padres. He played in eleven games for them.
McCovey returned to the Giants in 1977 without a guaranteed contract, but he earned a position on the team. With Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson having retired at the end of the 1976 season with 755 and 586 home runs respectively, McCovey began 1977 as the active home run leader with 465. That year, during a June 27 game against the Cincinnati Reds, he became the first player to hit two home runs in one inning twice in his career (the first was on April 12, 1973), a feat since accomplished by Andre Dawson, Jeff King, Alex Rodriguez, and Edwin Encarnacion. One was a grand slam and he became the first National Leaguer to hit seventeen. At age 39, he had 28 home runs and 86 RBIs and was named the Comeback Player of the Year.
On June 30, 1978, at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, McCovey hit his 500th home run, and two years later, on May 3, 1980, at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, McCovey hit his 521st and last home run, off Scott Sanderson of the Montreal Expos. This home run gave McCovey the distinction, along with Ted Williams (with whom he was tied in home runs), Rickey Henderson, and Omar Vizquel of homering in four different decades: the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '80s. McCovey is one of only 29 players in baseball history to date to have appeared in Major League baseball games in four decades.
In his 22-year career, McCovey batted .270, with 521 home runs and 1,555 RBIs, 1,229 runs scored, 2,211 hits, 353 doubles, 46 triples, a .374 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. He also hit 18 grand slam home runs in his career, a National League record, and was a six-time All-Star.
McCovey was a senior advisor with the Giants for 18 years. In this role, he visited the team during spring training and during the season, providing advice and other services.
In September 2003, McCovey and a business partner opened McCovey's Restaurant, a baseball-themed sports bar and restaurant located in Walnut Creek, California. The restaurant closed in February 2015.
|McCovey's number 44 was retired by the San Francisco Giants in 1980.|
McCovey was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 in his first year of eligibility—making him the 16th player to so honored. He appeared on 346 of 425 ballots cast (81.4 percent).
McCovey is best remembered for the ferocity of his line drive batting style. In his book Ball Four, pitcher Jim Bouton wrote about watching the slugger blast the ball in batting practice, while making "little whimpering animal sounds" in response to each of McCovey's raw power drives. Reds manager Sparky Anderson also had a healthy respect for the damage McCovey could do, saying "I walked Willie McCovey so many times, he could have walked to the moon on all those walks." McCovey's bat was so lethal in his prime he was intentionally walked an all-time record 45 times in 1969, shattering the previous record by a dozen. This remained the major league mark for 33 years until broken by fellow Giant Barry Bonds. The following year McCovey was intentionally walked 40 times. Once, speaking to the pitcher before a McCovey at-bat, Mets inimitable manager Casey Stengel joked, "Where do you want to pitch him, upper deck or lower deck?"
In 1999, McCovey was ranked 56th on the Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Two years later, the sport's most prominent sabermetric analyst, Bill James, ranked him 69th, and the 9th-best first baseman. Since 1980, the Giants have awarded the Willie Mac Award to honor his spirit and leadership.
The inlet of San Francisco Bay beyond the right field fence of Oracle Park, historically known as China Basin, has been re-dubbed McCovey Cove in his honor. A statue of McCovey was erected across McCovey Cove from the park, and the land on which it stands named McCovey Point. On September 21, 1980, the Giants retired his uniform number 44, which he wore in honor of Hank Aaron, a fellow Mobile, Alabama native.
McCovey was inducted to the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame (formerly the Afro Sports Hall of Fame) in Oakland, California on February 7, 2009. The Willie McCovey field at Woodside Elementary School in Woodside, California was rededicated to him in 2013.
McCovey's first marriage was to Karen McCovey, which produced a daughter. On August 1, 2018, he married longtime girlfriend Estela Bejar at AT&T Park.
In 1996, McCovey and fellow baseball Hall of Famer Duke Snider pled guilty to federal tax fraud charges that they had failed to report about $10,000 in income from sports card shows and memorabilia sales from 1988 to 1990. McCovey was given two years of probation and fined $5,000. He received a pardon from President Barack Obama on January 17, 2017.
In his later years, McCovey dealt with several health issues, including atrial fibrillation and an infection in 2015 that nearly killed him. After his career ended he endured several knee surgeries, which left him in a wheelchair, and he was hospitalized several times.
McCovey died at the age of 80 at Stanford University Medical Center on October 31, 2018 after battling "ongoing health issues". He had been hospitalized for an infection late the previous week. His longtime friend and fellow Hall-of-Famer Joe Morgan was at his bedside. A public memorial service for McCovey was held at AT&T Park on November 8, 2018.
The 1959 San Francisco Giants season was the Giants' 77th year in Major League Baseball and their second year in San Francisco since their move from New York following the 1957 season. The team finished in third place in the National League with an 83-71 record, 4 games behind the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. It was the team's second and final season at Seals Stadium before moving their games to Candlestick Park the following season.1962 World Series
The 1962 World Series matched the defending American League and World Series champions New York Yankees against the National League champion San Francisco Giants. It is best remembered for its dramatic conclusion; with runners on second and third and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, Hall-of-Famer Willie McCovey hit an exceptionally hard line drive that was caught by second baseman Bobby Richardson to preserve a one-run victory for the Yankees.
The Giants had won their first NL pennant since 1954 and first since moving from New York in 1958. They advanced by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-game playoff. The Giants had a higher cumulative batting average (.226-.199) and lower earned-run average (2.66-2.95), had more hits (51-44), runs (21-20), hit more home runs (5-3), triples (2-1) and doubles (10-6), yet lost the Series. They would not return to the Fall Classic for another 27 years.
The Yankees took the Series in seven games for the 20th championship in team history. The Yankees had won their first World Series in 1923; of the 40 Series played between 1923 and 1962, the Yankees won half. After a long dominance of the World Series picture, the Yankees would not win another World Series for another 15 years despite appearances in 1963, 1964, and 1976.
This World Series, which was closely matched in every game, is also remembered for its then-record length of 13 days, caused by rain in both cities.1963 San Francisco Giants season
The 1963 San Francisco Giants season was the Giants' 81st year in Major League Baseball, their sixth year in San Francisco since their move from New York following the 1957 season, and their fourth at Candlestick Park. The team finished in third place in the National League with an 88-74 record, 11 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.1964 San Francisco Giants season
The 1964 San Francisco Giants season was the Giants' 82nd year in Major League Baseball, their seventh year in San Francisco since their move from New York following the 1957 season, and their fifth at Candlestick Park. The team finished in fourth place, as a result of their 90–72 record, placing them three games behind the National League and World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.1968 San Francisco Giants season
The 1968 San Francisco Giants season was the Giants' 86th year in Major League Baseball, their eleventh year in San Francisco since their move from New York following the 1957 season, and their ninth at Candlestick Park. The team finished in second place in the National League with an 88–74 record, 9 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.1969 Major League Baseball season
The 1969 Major League Baseball season was celebrated as the 100th anniversary of professional baseball, honoring the first professional touring baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
It was the first season of what is now called the "Divisional Era", where each league of 12 teams was divided into two divisions of six teams each. The winners of each division would compete against each other in a League Championship Series, then best-of-five, to determine the pennant winners that would face each other in the World Series.
In a year marked by Major League Baseball's third expansion of the decade, the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles faced each other in the 1969 World Series. Having won the N.L. East Division with a league-best 100–62 record, and sweeping the N.L. West Division Champion Atlanta Braves in three games in the first National League Championship Series, the "Miracle Mets" became the first expansion team to win a pennant. They faced the A.L. East Division Champion Orioles, holders of the best record in baseball (109–53), who swept the A.L. West Division Champion Minnesota Twins in three games in the first American League Championship Series. The upstart Mets upset the heavily favored Orioles and won the World Series title in five games.1974 San Diego Padres season
The 1974 San Diego Padres season was the sixth in franchise history. The team finished last in the National League West with a record of 60–102, 42 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.1976 Oakland Athletics season
The 1976 Oakland Athletics season involved the A's finishing second in the American League West with a record of 87 wins and 74 losses, 2½ games behind the Kansas City Royals, meaning that the A's failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1970. This team set and still holds the modern Major League team record for most stolen bases in a season with 341.The Athletics would not eclipse this season's win total until 1988 (when they won 104). Indeed, nearly all of the team's stars (Sal Bando, Rollie Fingers, Gene Tenace, Joe Rudi, Bert Campaneris, Don Baylor, Phil Garner, Billy Williams, Claudell Washington, and an injury-plagued Willie McCovey) would depart during the 1976–77 offseason. This staggering mass exodus contributed led to a 24-win plunge in 1977.1976 San Diego Padres season
The 1976 San Diego Padres season was the 8th season in franchise history.1977 San Francisco Giants season
The 1977 San Francisco Giants season was the Giants' 95th season in Major League Baseball, their 20th season in San Francisco since their move from New York following the 1957 season, and their 18th at Candlestick Park. The team finished in fourth place in the National League West with a 75–87 record, 23 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.1986 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting
Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1986 followed the system in place since 1978.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players and
elected Willie McCovey.
The Veterans Committee met in closed sessions to consider older major league players as well as managers, umpires, executives, and figures from the Negro Leagues.
It also selected two players, Bobby Doerr and Ernie Lombardi.500 home run club
In Major League Baseball (MLB), the 500 home run club is a group of batters who have hit 500 or more regular-season home runs in their careers. On August 11, 1929, Babe Ruth became the first member of the club. Ruth ended his career with 714 home runs, a record which stood from 1935 until Hank Aaron surpassed it in 1974. Aaron's ultimate career total, 755, remained the record until Barry Bonds set the current mark of 762 during the 2007 season. Twenty-seven players are members of the 500 home run club. Ted Williams (.344) holds the highest batting average among the club members while Harmon Killebrew (.256) holds the lowest.
Of these 27 players, 14 were right-handed batters, 11 were left-handed, and 2 were switch hitters. The San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox are the only franchises to see four players reach the milestone while on their roster: for the Giants, Mel Ott while the team was in New York, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and most recently Bonds, and, for the Red Sox, Jimmie Foxx, Williams, and more recently Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Six 500 home run club members—Aaron, Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols, and Alex Rodriguez—are also members of the 3,000 hit club. Gary Sheffield's 500th home run was his first career home run with the New York Mets, the first time that a player's 500th home run was also his first with his franchise. Rodriguez, at 32 years and 8 days, was the youngest player to reach the milestone while Williams, at 41 years and 291 days, was the oldest. The most recent player to reach 500 home runs is Ortiz, who hit his 500th home run on September 12, 2015. As of the end of the 2018 season, Albert Pujols is the only active member of the 500 home run club.Membership in the 500 home run club is sometimes described as a guarantee of eventual entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, although some believe the milestone has become less meaningful in recent years. Five eligible club members—Bonds, Mark McGwire, Palmeiro, Sheffield and Sammy Sosa—have not been elected to the Hall. Bonds and Sosa made their first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2013; Bonds received only 36.2% and Sosa 12.5% of the total votes, with 75% required for induction. Eligibility requires that a player has "been retired five seasons" or be deceased for at least six months. Some believe the milestone has become less important with the large number of new members; 10 players joined the club from 1999 to 2009. Additionally, several of these recent members have had ties to performance-enhancing drugs. Some believe that by not electing McGwire to the Hall the voters were establishing a "referendum" on how they would treat players from the "Steroid Era". On January 8, 2014, Palmeiro became the first member of the 500 Home Run Club to be removed from the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. As the BBWAA announced the selections for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2014, Palmeiro appeared on just 4.4% of the ballots. Players must be named on at least of 5.0% of ballots to remain on future ballots.List of National League annual slugging percentage leaders
List of National League Slugging Percentage Leaders
The National League slugging percentage Leader is the Major League Baseball player in the National League who has the highest slugging percentage in a particular season.
In baseball statistics, slugging percentage' (abbreviated SLG) is a measure of the power of a hitter. It is calculated as total bases divided by at bats:
where AB is the number of at-bats for a given player, and 1B, 2B, 3B, and HR are the number of singles, doubles, triples, and home runs, respectively. Walks are specifically excluded from this calculation.
Currently, a player needs to accrue an average of at least 3.1 plate appearances for each game his team plays in order to qualify for the title. An exception to this qualification rule is that if a player falls short of 3.1 plate appearances per game, but would still have the highest batting average if enough hitless at-bats were added to reach the 3.1 average mark, the player still wins the slugging percentage championship.
The latest example of this exception being employed was in 2007, when Ryan Braun had a .634 slugging percentage, but only 492 plate appearances – 10 short of the 502 necessary. The addition of 10 hitless at-bats would have lowered his slugging percentage to a value that was still better than anyone else in the league, so Braun was the National League slugging percentage champion. A similar situation occurred when Tony Gwynn won the NL batting title in 1996.
Year-by-Year National League Slugging Percentage Leaders
+ Hall of Famer
A ** by the stat's value indicates the player had fewer than the required number of plate appearances for the SLG title that year. In order to rank the player, the necessary number of hitless at bats were added to the player's season total. The value here is their actual value, and not the value used to rank them.McCovey
McCovey is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:
Willie McCovey (1938–2018), American baseball playerMcCovey Cove
McCovey Cove is the unofficial name of a section of San Francisco Bay beyond the right field wall of Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, named after famed Giants first baseman Willie McCovey. The proper name for the cove is China Basin, which is the mouth of Mission Creek as it meets the bay. The cove is bounded along the north by Oracle Park, with a ferry landing and a breakwater at the northeast end. The southern shore is lined by China Basin Park and McCovey Point. To the east, it opens up to San Francisco Bay, while the west end of the cove is bounded by the Lefty O'Doul Bridge, named after San Francisco ballplayer and manager Lefty O'Doul.Mike Caldwell (baseball)
Ralph Michael "Mike" Caldwell (born January 22, 1949) is an American and former collegiate and professional baseball left-handed pitcher. Caldwell was drafted in the twelfth round of the 1971 amateur draft by the San Diego Padres after graduating from North Carolina State University, where he played college baseball for the Wolfpack. He made his major league debut on September 4, 1971 against the Atlanta Braves. In October 1973, the Padres traded Caldwell to the San Francisco Giants for Willie McCovey and Bernie Williams. Caldwell was traded again in 1976, this time to the St. Louis Cardinals with John D'Acquisto and Dave Rader for Willie Crawford, Vic Harris and John Curtis. Before the start of the 1977 season, Caldwell was traded for the third time, going to the Cincinnati Reds for Pat Darcy. After just fourteen games, the Reds traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers for minor leaguers Dick O'Keefe and Garry Pyka.
Caldwell had his best season in 1978 when he went 22–9 with a 2.36 ERA and led the AL in Complete Games with 23. Caldwell was named the AL Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News and finished second in the Cy Young Award balloting to Ron Guidry. Caldwell finished in double figures in victories for 6 consecutive seasons for the Brewers (1978–1983) and won 2 games in the 1982 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in a losing effort. Caldwell was given his unconditional release by the Brewers organization in 1985. Caldwell, as of 2019, is still the Brewers' all-time leader in wins by a left-handed pitcher, with 102.
In 1978, he was one of the three left-handed pitchers named "Mike" (the others being Mike Flanagan and Mike Willis) to hand the New York Yankees' Ron Guidry a loss in his 25–3 season. He and the Brewers shut out the Yankees and Guidry 6–0 on July 7, 1978. During his prime years in Milwaukee, Caldwell was known as a "Yankee killer", and proved to be very successful against them. From 1977 to 1982, Caldwell was 12-5 with a 2.66 ERA against the Yankees.Pete Pavlick
Peter Pavlick, Jr. (January 16, 1926 in Bayonne, New Jersey, USA – September 5, 1990) was a minor league baseball manager who is notable for leading the Georgia State League's Sandersville Giants to a co-league championship in 1955. He also played in the minor league for 15 seasons.
Pavlick managed in the New York Giants system from 1955 and 1957, where he managed the Sandersville Giants (1955–1956) and the St. Cloud Rox (1957), and in the New York Mets system from 1965 to 1969, where he managed the Marion Mets (1965), Greenville Mets (1966), Winter Haven Mets (1967), Raleigh-Durham Mets (1968) and Memphis Blues (1969). As mentioned he led the Sandersville Giants to a co-league championship in 1955. In 1956, he led them to the league finals, which they lost. In 1968 he led the Raleigh-Durham Mets to the league finals, which they lost. In 1969, he instituted a plan of using one pitcher per inning each game. He was replaced partway through the year.Pavlick managed multiple notable players while a manager, including Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Nolan Ryan and All-Stars Jim Bibby, Jerry Morales and Ken Singleton.
Pavlick played from 1943 to 1944 and from 1946 to 1958. A second baseman, he hit .277 with 1,384 hits in 1,395 games. In 1950, he led the International League in stolen bases. Though he never played in the major leagues, he did attend major league spring training with the Giants.He also served as the head coach of Biscayne College.Sandersville Giants
The Sandersville Giants were a minor league baseball based in Sandersville, Georgia. The Sandersville Giants played in the Class D Georgia State League (GSL) from 1953 to 1956. The Team was first called the Sandersville Wacos (1953-1954). Hall of Famer Willie McCovey played for the Sandersville Giants in 1955. The team folded along with the Georgia State League following the 1956 season.Willie Mac Award
The Willie Mac Award is named in honor of Willie McCovey. It has been presented annually since 1980 to the most inspirational player on the San Francisco Giants, as voted upon by Giants players, coaches, training staff, and more recently, Giants fans. McCovey personally presented the winner with the award in a pregame ceremony at AT&T Park near the conclusion of each season until his death on October 31, 2018.