By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Former San Francisco Giant slugger and one of Major League Baseball’s all-time greatest players, Willie McCovey, has died at the age of 80.
Nicknamed “Mac,” and “Stretch,” McCovey played 22 seasons – mostly with the Giants but split time with the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres – and produced 521 home runs while driving in 1,555 runs.
He earned three National League Most Valuable Player Awards and six All-Star Game MVP honors. McCovey earned induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Giants built a statute in his honor outside of their stadium by the Bay in San Francisco.
“San Francisco and the entire baseball community lost a true gentleman and legend, and our collective hearts are broken,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said in statement announcing the loss of the all-time greats. “Willie was a beloved figure throughout his playing days and in retirement. He will be deeply missed by the many people he touched,” he said.
“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.
“Willie’s greatest passion was his family and our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife, Estella, and his daughter, Allison, and her children Raven, Philip, and Marissa.”
As noted by MLB Trade Rumors, McCovey’s name has become synonymous not only with the San Francisco Giants — who retired his No. 44 and named right field’s “McCovey Cove” at AT&T Park in his honor — but with baseball greatness.
McCovey’s overall statistics include a slash line of .270/.374/.515 with 521 home runs, 353 doubles, 46 triples, 1229 runs scored and 1555 runs batted in. In addition to spending 19 seasons with the Giants, McCovey played three seasons with the Padres and also spent part of the 1976 season with the Athletics.
He played with other legends like Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds and against greats like Roberto Clemente and Bob Gibson.
“He really is Giants royalty. You see the statue out behind the cove, you hear about the Willie Mac Award,” Baer said. “You think of him as a gentle giant. He was just big and imposing and he was feared as a hitter and soft and cuddly and warm as a person.”