Doubleday Double Talk Remembers: Willie McCovey

Doubleday Double Talk Remembers is designed to connect fans with the game of baseball’s past one player and story at a time. A Doubleday Double Talk Remembers will be published every Friday and will go over the life and legacy of the players from our past, from Babe Ruth to Hank Aaron to Steve Dalkowski to Eddie Gaedel, every player has a story and Daryll Dorman and Giuseppe Vitulli are here to provide you with just that. Sometimes we forget about how important baseball’s past is, so Doubleday Double Talk Remembers is simply the writers at Doubleday Double Talk’s way to pay homage to the past of the beautiful game of baseball.

On Thursday November 1st, 2018, baseball lost one of its legends. San Francisco Giants great Willie McCovey passed away at 80 years old. His legacy as one of the greatest players of all times will endure.

The Hall of Fame first baseman ended with 521 home runs, and held the National League record for homers by a left handed hitter until Barry Bonds came along. Giants CEO Larry Baer said this about the Giants great:

“Willie was a beloved figure throughout his playing days and in retirement. He will be deeply missed by the many people he touched. For more than six decades, he gave his heart and soul to the Giants — as one of the greatest players of all time, as a quiet leader in the clubhouse, as a mentor to the Giants who followed in his footsteps, as an inspiration to our Junior Giants, and as a fan cheering on the team from his booth.”

The cove past the right field bleachers in Giants stadium AT&T Park is named McCovey Cove after the legend, who was called “Stretch” because of his 6’4″ stature and agility at first base. McCovey certainly has some impressive numbers, but it was the way he played the game that endeared him to fans and teammates alike. Every year, the Giants give out the “Willie Mac” award to the teams most inspirational player. An attribute not captured by any analytics(yet) but important to playing baseball to your fullest nonetheless.

Barry Bonds opened up on twitter about McCovey’s passing:

Mac, I am crying over losing you. I remember asking you what I would do without all of you around. You told me that when that day comes — and it will one day– to keep the tradition of Giants baseball living forever. You told me to help the next generation of of ball players get better. You told me to be thankful that we had so much time to spend together and talk about the love we have for the game, San Francisco, the Giants and for each other. You wanted me to be happy that we had a love and friendship that will never disappear and be in our hearts forever. Uncle Mac thank you for your mentorship and unconditional love for me and my family. You will be dearly missed.

McCovey was traded at age 35 to the Padres in 1973 then returned to the Giants in 1977 after another stint in Oakland. He had to be a Giant. He won the NL Comeback Player of the Year his first year back and played a few more seasons.

Famously he came up just short of winning a World Series with the Giants. In 1962 McCovey came up with two outs down by 1 with the winning run on 2nd base in Game 7 of the World Series against the Yankees. If not for a great catch by the Yankees 2B Bobby Richardson it would’ve been an amazing moment. McCovey remarked: “I still think about it all the time…I still think, ‘If I could have hit it a little more.'”

He is one of 7 players in history to win the Rookie of the Year Award, MVP and All Star Game MVP. He was elected to Cooperstown in 1986.

Willie McCovey was synonymous with Willie Mays of course, and the two were a tandem that few teams have ever matched. Alongside Mantle/Maris and Banks/Williams, it is rare to associate two great players the way these two are.

In the end, the Giants years with Mays/McCovey coincided with the same dynasty years of the Cardinals and Yankees and they never enough talent to win the first World Series in San Francisco. Baseball is about statistics yes, but beneath those statistics you need heart. Willie McCovey made sure him and his Giants teammates were never lacking in that area.

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