Hall of Famers, for­mer team­mates gather to cel­e­brate McCovey’s life

The Tribune (SLO) - - Sports - BY JANIE MCCAULEY

SAN FRAN­CISCO

Aside from that fear­some left-handed swing ev­ery­body knew, Wil­lie McCovey pro­vided an ex­am­ple of hu­mil­ity in how he lived for many of his San Fran­cisco Gi­ants team­mates year af­ter year.

“McCovey was our leader,” Gay­lord Perry said as his fel­low Hall of Famer was re­mem­bered in a cel­e­bra­tion of his life Thurs­day at AT&T Park.

McCovey died Oct. 31 at age 80 af­ter suf­fer­ing from on­go­ing health is­sues.

Hall of Famers, for­mer team­mates and win­ners of the Wil­lie Mac Award named for him at­tended on a pic­ture-per­fect day. McCovey’s 44 was writ­ten into the in­field dirt next to his po­si­tion at first base.

The San Fran­cisco Fire Depart­ment paid trib­ute with a spray­ing show from a boat in his name­sake McCovey Cove in the bay be­yond the right-field ar­cade. Bou­quets of flow­ers were left on McCovey’s statue across the wa­ter.

McCovey was in­ducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986 af­ter his first time on the bal­lot. A first base­man and left fielder who won NL Rookie of the Year in 1959 and MVP 10 years later, McCovey was a .270 ca­reer hit­ter with 521 home runs and 1,555 RBIs in 22 ma­jor league sea­sons, 19 of them with the Gi­ants. He also played for the Ath­let­ics and Padres.

“What he did on the field, ev­ery­body knows what he did,” Hall of Famer Or­lando Cepeda said. “But as a hu­man be­ing, Wil­lie McCovey was very spe­cial.”

McCovey wore No. 44 to honor Hank Aaron – who like McCovey grew up in Mo­bile, Alabama.

“If there is a sec­ond life, I’d like to come back as a ma­jor league base­ball player,” McCovey once said.

“Stretch,” as he was fondly known, never won a World Se­ries af­ter com­ing so close. The Gi­ants lost the 1962 World Se­ries to the New York Yan­kees, drop­ping Game 7 1-0 when McCovey lined out to sec­ond base­man Bobby Richard­son

with run­ners on sec­ond and third for the fi­nal out.

“Wil­lie’s in­deli­ble mo­ment hap­pened to be a scream­ing line drive that found Bobby Richard­son’s glove in Game 7 of the 1962 World Se­ries,” Gi­ants CEO Larry Baer said. “A few feet one way or an­other, peo­ple say, and Wil­lie’s le­gacy rises to a whole dif­fer­ent level. Well, I couldn’t dis­agree with that more.

“Even if that line drive had got­ten past Bobby Richard­son and driven in the win­ning run, that one heroic mo­ment would never have de­fined Wil­lie’s le­gacy. His le­gacy tran­scends base­ball, tran­scends his six All-Star ap­pear­ances, his Rookie of the Year award, his MVP, even his Hall of Fame in­duc­tion.”

Those who played with him cher­ished McCovey for his thought­ful ways both on and off the field. Home run king Barry Bonds called him “Un­cle Mac” “be­cause I’ve al­ways ad­mired him and he’s al­ways taught me the game of base­ball as much as Wil­lie (Mays) and my dad have,” Bonds said.

Past Wil­lie Mac Award win­ners in at­ten­dance in­cluded Gi­ants broad­caster Mike Krukow, Dave Dravecky, Buster Posey, Jack Clark, Sha­won Dun­ston, Nick Hund­ley, Marvin Be­nard and Mike Felder. The honor is voted on by the play­ers, coaches and train­ing staff to rec­og­nize the Gi­ants player who most ex­em­pli­fies McCovey’s in­spi­ra­tional ways on the field and in the club­house.

PETER DASILVA NYT

Wil­lie McCovey died Oct. 31. He won many awards in 22 sea­sons, 19 of them with the Gi­ants. He also played for the Ath­let­ics and Padres.

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