Willie McCovey

Willie Lee McCovey
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1986
Primary team: San Francisco Giants
Primary position: 1st Baseman

“Here’s a guy who is the most feared in baseball, but everyone pitches around him. If you let him bat 600 times and pitched to him instead of around him, he’d hit 80 home runs,” said Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson.

The San Francisco Giants gave opponents “The Willies” from 1959-72, when Willie Mays and Willie “Stretch” McCovey comprised the core of their offensive attack. McCovey, a fellow native of the Mobile, Ala., area, joined Mays and the Giants in 1959. Like Mays, McCovey won Rookie of the Year honors, batting .354, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 38 runs in just 52 games.

“He could hit a ball farther than anyone I ever played with,” said Mays.

In 1963, McCovey won the first of three NL home run crowns, knocking 44 – the number he wore on his jersey – over the fence. He would belt 521 long balls for his career, and chalk up 18 grand slams, at the time second only to Lou Gehrig’s 23. In 1962, the Giants returned to New York to take on the Yankees in a thrilling, seven-game World Series. With the Giants trailing 1-0 in Game 7, McCovey was at bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and runners on second and third. McCovey slashed what looked like a Series-winning hit to the left of Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson but he caught the ball. The moment was so stunning it was immortalized in a “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles Schulz.

By the late 1960s, McCovey was one of the premier power hitters in the NL, leading the league in homers and RBI in 1968 and ’69, and in slugging percentage from 1968-70. He was the NL MVP in 1969. He spent three seasons with the Padres and had a short stint with Oakland before returning to the Giants from 1977-80. A six-time All-Star and a skilled defensive first baseman, McCovey quietly played most of his career with knee, hip and foot injuries that would hobble many other players.

“I’m not afraid of any pitcher,” said McCovey. “I’ve been pitched almost every way, and I’ve hit every kind of pitch. There wasn’t much else to do in Mobile.”

"If you pitch to him, he'll ruin baseball. He'd hit 80 home runs. There's no comparison between McCovey and anybody else in the league. "
Sparky Anderson

Career stats

Year Inducted: 1986
Primary Team: San Francisco Giants
Position Played: 1st Baseman
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Birth place: Mobile, Alabama
Birth year: 1938
Died: 2018, Stanford, California
Played for:
San Francisco Giants (1959-1973)
San Diego Padres (1974-1976)
Oakland Athletics (1976)
San Francisco Giants (1977-1980)
At BatsAB
Home RunsHR
Stolen BasesSB
Batting AverageBA
On Base %OBP
Slugging %SLG