Sunday, January 19, 2014

Willie McCovey -- January 19, 2014

Inspired by the book Few and Chosen: Defining Giants Greatness Across the Eras by Giants great Bobby Thomson and Phil Pepe, I thought I would devote my nickname meme to Giants players for the next several months. 

Willie McCovey, Stretch, was a great first baseman for the San Francisco Giants.  Everyone loved him when I was growing up.  Some people liked McCovey more than Willie Mays because McCovey had started out in San Francisco.  I loved watching him hit line drives.  I loved watching him stretch out to take a throw at first. 

I was shattered when he went to the Padres in 1974.  I was very happy when he came back in 1977.  He earned the Comeback Player of the Year award. 

We were at a game at Candlestick in 1980, one of his last, I think, when he reached first base.  I don't remember who was hitting behind him, but suddenly McCovey took off for second; it looked as if he was trying to steal the bag.  Because of knee problems, it had been a long time since he had stolen a base.  The stadium went silent, the catcher threw the ball to second, and he was out.  It turned out to be a broken hit and run play. 

Willie McCovey is in the Hall of Fame, where he belongs.  Despite mobility problems, he spends a lot of time at the ballpark and shares his wisdom with the players.  Every year the Giants players and coaches vote to give the Willie Mac Award to a player who embodies Stretch's qualities of leadership and spirit. 

I took the photo of Willie McCovey's statue, across China Basin, also known as McCovey Cove, from the ballpark on 21-September-2007. 

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