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Tag Archives: Willie McCovey

A Good Man Gone

Bob Gibson, who was likely the most feared pitcher of his era, once described Willie McCovey as “the scariest hitter” in baseball. McCovey aka Willie Mac aka Stretch hit more home runs at Candlestick Park than any other hitter.  Candlestick Park, a stadium that was notorious for being a place where home runs went to die.

Growing up a Giants fan in the 1970s I don’t have much memory of his early years as a Giant — the years when he was in his prime as “the scariest hitter.” Although I did get his autograph on my glove when I was seven years old.

Instead, my memory picks up when he returned to the Giants in 1977, after a few years with the Padres and A’s. McCovey was a mountain of a man who lumbered around the diamond, playing first base and swinging a bat that looked like a small tree, while he played out his final few years as a major league baseball player.

At one point, McCovey held the record for most career grand slams. He ended his career with 521 home runs in an era that predated steroids, and was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

More important to me is the fact that McCovey was a quiet man who didn’t make a lot of noise about himself. He let his game speak for itself and for him. And he was such a good player and man that the San Francisco Giants organization created the Willie Mac award upon his retirement. The award is given each year, based on a vote of players, coaches and others within the organization, to the most inspirational player on the team. It says something about McCovey that this award is one of the biggest deals of every Giants season.

One of the best things the Giants organization has done over the last 20-25 years is to embrace their history. Players from years past, and decades ago, have been brought back into the organization, treated like royalty, and adored by fans and players alike. The stadium has statutes of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and others. The stadium is located at McCovey Cove in the San Francisco Bay.

What the Giants do with their history is one of the reasons why baseball is the best major sport in America. It continues to tell a story in which generations of players are linked with each other. No other sport is like baseball, with its 162 game schedule each season that tells one piece of its story every year and its historical ties that go back decades. Why? Because the game has not changed all that much. Unlike football and basketball, where the rules change every year, baseball is still following the same basic rules it always has. There are rarely changes that alter the fundamental dynamics of the game. And so the story continues from year to year, decade to decade, and on into the future. The Giants maintenance of their history keeps that story alive.

Willie McCovey passed away today. It was a day all Giants fans knew was coming. McCovey has been suffering for a long time with the physical ailments of an athlete who put it all out there at the major league level for two decades, and the inevitable other ailments that hit the old. But he will not be forgotten by Giants fans. He is an integral part of the story of the San Francisco Giants. I still have that glove and while I may not have much memory of that 1972 summer when he signed it, the autograph means something that no money could replace.

Willie McCovey, a man who deserves the title “Legend”.

willie mac


A Peek Inside

Throughout the day, every day, little things happen or random thoughts pop into my head and I think, “I should blog about this.”  Then, as the day progresses, those thoughts disappear and I forget at the end of the day what I had thought of sharing.  So, herewith, based on the list I kept throughout the day are my random thoughts for January 10, 2013:

Willie McCovey turns 75 today.  For those who don’t know, McCovey was the first homegrown San Francisco Giants hero.  Yes, Willie Mays was there and incredible, but he came over with the Giants from New York.  McCovey, on the other hand, made his debut with the team after they arrived in San Francisco and became a Hall of Fame player with the team.  He is one of those rare players who is most well-known for an out he made at the plate.  In 1962, the Giants made the World Series against the hated Yankees.  In the bottom of the ninth of the seventh and final game, the Giants trailed 1-0 but had runners on second and third with two outs when McCovey came to the plate.  According to Bob Gibson, the most feared pitcher of the 1960’s, McCovey was the “scariest hitter in baseball.”  He hit a “scorching line drive” that Bobby Richardson snagged at second base, ending the game.  I was two years away from life when this happened and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a video or picture of the line drive, but it is always described as one of those miracle plays.  An inch or two to the left or right, or higher or lower, and the Giants win Game 7 with bottom of the ninth heroics from a quiet and humble, yet powerful man.  Forty-eight years later, the Giants finally won another World Series.  McCovey went on to hit 521 home runs in a time when that was monumental – in an era when pitchers dominated the game.  He hit more home runs at Candlestick Park than any other player.  And was a first ballot Hall of Famer.  The award the Giants give each year to their most inspirational player is named after Willie McCovey and a statue of the man stands guard over McCovey Cove next to the stadium.  Willie McCovey is one of those historical sports figures who can transcend generations and are part of the legacy of what makes baseball such an incredible sport.

Which lead me to this thought … For the second time in the last three years, the Giants won the World Series.  Just as with the 2010 version, they weren’t expected to.  They were underdogs in each of their three postseason series.  That they made the postseason at all was probably considered an overachievement by most baseball experts.  I loved seeing all of those “experts” pick against them.  First against Cincinnati, then against St. Louis, and finally against the mighty Detroit Tigers.  So much for the quality and value of expert opinions when it comes to sports.  But, that’s not what I thought of.  Instead, I did a little math.  The Giants had eight home games during the post season (two against Cincinnati, four against St. Louis, and two against Detroit).  They packed in more than 43,000 fans into the stadium.  Assuming that the average ticket price (what the Giants charged and received, not what scalpers or StubHub charged) was $100, that means the Giants made $4.3 million in additional revenue on ticket sales for each post season game.  I believe that assumption is conservative.  So total additional ticket revenue was at least $35 million for the eight games.  Add in, again a conservative estimate, of $50 per person on food and souvenirs and you have another $17 million.  So, just on ticket revenue and stadium revenue from food and souvenirs, the Giants made an additional $52 million this year by winning the World Series. It’s a pretty stunning number.

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Here’s a thought for tailgaters everywhere.  Not the type who have tailgating parties at sporting events.  No, I’m talking about the yahoos of the world who insist on creeping or speeding up to my car and following a few feet behind.  My message to you is this – keep doing it, don’t back up, and I’m more than likely to slow down.

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I went to see Lincoln a few weeks ago.  It’s an excellent movie and re-kindled my interest in reading well-written books about American history.  Ever since I was seven and we took our vacation across the country, including numerous stops at Civil War battlefields and other monuments to American history, I’ve been interested in that time in our history.  The movie claims to be based in some way on Team of Rivals, the story written by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I downloaded the book and started reading it.  Weeks later, I love the story, but I‘m not sure I’ll be able to finish it.  Why?  Because it’s sooooooooo damn long.  There are things I haven’t done the past few weeks so I can devote more time to reading this incredible story.  No yoga, no exercising, no real writing.  I’ve spent less time on my laptop so I can spend more time reading this book.  And, with all of that time put into it, my Kindle says I’ve read only 27% of the thing.  I don’t know how much more of it I can take.  It’s a fascinating, well-written story.  History written as story rather than as a research project.  Exactly the type of history I like to read.  But … my god!  I didn’t realize reading it would require a dedication of a couple months of my life.

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So I heard this song on the radio and thought, well, it’s today’s song.  I waffled a bit.  It prompted me to think of another Tracy Chapman song, and then I thought of a Norah Jones song that seemed appropriate, but then, I thought, no, it’s gotta be the song I actually heard on the radio on my drive in to work this morning.
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I’d like to know what the deal is with restaurant chefs who believe Caesar Salad should be served with whole lettuce leaves rather than with bite size chunks of romaine.  Yes, I know it’s probably trendy, it’s what all the cool places do, but really.  I need a knife and a fork to eat my salad?  I’d like also to know why the chicken on a Chicken Caesar Salad has to be dry and have black grill marks that taste of burnt chicken rather than reasonably grilled chicken.  I’d like to know why … well, I’d like to tell you that if you’re ever at Firestone in Sacramento, do not get the Chicken Caesar Salad.  This is what I get for trying to eat something healthier for lunch today than my usual cheeseburger and fries, or pizza, or massive burrito.

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My friend Jennifer got some partial news today.  The biopsy showed that the polyp was precancerous.  However, because of the type of polyp it turned out to be, her doctor expressed some continued concern about her situation.  She’ll be having a CT scan to verify whether there is cancer anywhere else and surgery to remove the portion of her colon where the polyp was.  I want to thank all of you in my blogging universe who either commented and offered your prayers and thoughts or remained silent but still prayed for her.

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And, finally, another reason I have a man-crush on Andrew Sullivan.  Today, in the middle of posts about marijuana legalization, Chuck Hagel, the Trillion dollar platinum coin, and everything else, he linked to this video.  Watch closely you might miss something.

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