Willie McCovey, also known as Stretch or Big Mac, is a pretty commonly known star in the baseball community, and that is precisely the problem. The average fan has surely heard of him as an all-time great and a Hall of Famer, but never mentioned in the same circles as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams. I believe this is purely due to his lack of a career defining play or stat – Mays had the over the shoulder catch, Babe Ruth called his shot, Williams hit 400. McCovey’s moment may have been stolen away from him in the 1962 World Series when his scorching line drive was caught at second base by Bobby Richardson in the 9th inning of Game 7 with 2 outs and the Series winning run on second. With no such stat or moment to speak of, where does that leave Willie McCovey in the pantheon of baseball lore? Oh I don’t know, just a career that spanned across 4 decades (21 seasons), a career .889 OPS, 521 home runs, a RoY, an MVP, and a hall of fame plaque to wrap it all up. Simply put, Willie McCovey was an all time great hitter year in and year out, although some left to be desired defensively, but our listeners know that’s not what matters.
It is notable the McCovey was forced to sit out of games in the minor leagues due to stadiums and towns still under segregation, but none of this deterred Willie from reaching the big leagues. McCovey spent the first 15 years of his career playing for the giants, with stops in San Diego and Oakland for 2 years, before returning to the Giants for the final 4 years of career at age 39. In that triumphant return to the giants, he hit .280/.367/.500 with 28 home runs. Since his retirement, Willie has been honored with a statue at AT&T park (PFG loves statues), the naming of McCovey Cove in right field, and the retirement of his number 44 jersey. After his retirement in 1980, Willie remained a senior advisor with the giants for another 18 seasons and was a constant presence around the ballpark and in the clubhouse. We at PFG salute a baseball life, and one hell of a hitter.
Not too bad for a guy without a defining moment.
Rest In Peace #44
Kiz is infamous for wearing number 44 and will probably be able to found on twitter someday. Listen to him on Pop Flies and Grounders which can be found on this website, iTunes, and Spotify.
Featured Photo: Associated Press