Willie McCovey, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after a stellar career, mostly with the San Francisco Giants, died Wednesday from undisclosed health problems. As McCovey grew older, he was confined to a wheel chair. Mr. McCovey was 80, reported MLB. com on the San Francisco Giants website.
McCovey, who was born January 10, 1938, in Mobile, Alabama, was invited to the Giants’ tryout camp in Melbourne, Florida, when he was 17. He initially played with the Giants’ Class D Georgia State League and later entered the big leagues in 1959, a year after the Giants moved from New York City to San Francisco. He was 21.
McCovey, who played first base, was voted rookie of the year during his first season with the Giants, going four for four in his first game against the Philadelphia Phillies off of future hall of famer Robin Roberts.
McCovey, who was nicknamed “Stretch,” because he stretched his 6-foot 4-inch frame to catch throws to put runners out at first base.
“On ground balls hit to second base, all you had to do was hand the ball to McCovey,” wrote Los Angeles Time columnist Jim Murray.
During his career, McCovey wore the number 44 out of admiration for Hank Aaron.
McCovey played 22 seasons in the Major Leagues from 1959 to 1980. In addition to the Giants, he played for the San Diego Padres and for the Oakland A’s. During his career, he hit 521 home runs, 353 doubles, made 2,211 hits and 1,555 RBIs.
McCovey’s 521 home runs were second only to Barry Bonds’ 762 home runs; Bonds was a left-handed hitter.
He was a six-time All Star and an All-Star Most Valuable Player in 1969. Because of recurrent knee and heel injuries, the durable McCovey retired from baseball and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 as a member of San Francisco Giants.
A statue of McCovey is located in an area referred to as McCovey Cove in AT&T Park, the Giants home stadium.