Position: First baseman
Teams: San Francisco Giants,1959-1973, 1977-1980; San Diego Padres,1974-1976; Oakland Athletics, 1976

The "other" Willie on the 1960s San Francisco Giants, Willie McCovey was one of the great sluggers of the decade, averaging 30 homers each year and leading the league in round-trippers three times and in homer percentage four times.

Willie McCovey was a great slugger, and one of the San Francisco Giants's most popular players.
Willie McCovey was a great slugger,
and one of the San Francisco Giants's
most popular players.

Willie Lee McCovey (born in 1938) was such an outstanding baseball player that as a youngster he played on men's teams in his Mobile, Alabama, hometown. He was signed by the Giants in 1955, and he led the Georgia State League with 113 RBI in 113 games. He made it to the Pacific Coast League by 1958, where the first baseman hit .319 with 89 RBI that year. While that performance should have earned him a spot in San Francisco out of spring training in 1959, he was assigned to the PCL again; the Giants had '58 NL Rookie of the Year Orlando Cepeda playing first base.

After McCovey batted .372 with a league-best 29 homers and 92 RBI in 95 PCL games in 1959, he was called up to San Francisco. In the last 52 games of the '59 season, "Stretch" belted 13 homers with a .354 average and was named NL Rookie of the Year.

In 1960, however, McCovey's performance took such a dive he was returned to the minors. In 1961 and '62 he hit pretty well, socking a combined 38 home runs in about a season's worth of at bats. But in the same two years, Cepeda hit 81 homers with 256 RBI. They were both first basemen -- and unsatisfactory outfielders -- but they took their turns at first and in the field until Cepeda's knee injury in 1966 prompted his trade to St. Louis.

The Giants won the pennant in 1962. In the ninth inning of the seventh game, McCovey was at bat with the winning run on second. He hit a line drive --"the hardest ball I ever hit," he said -- directly at Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson.

A hit to either side would have given the Giants a championship, and Stretch would have been the hero. Unfortunately, a World Series victory never came. In 1971, the Giants lost to the Pirates in the NLCS, though Willie hit .429 with two homers. He won the NL MVP Award in '69, the middle year of three outstanding years. He led the loop in slugging percentage from 1968 to '70.

Stretch was traded to the Padres in 1974. In 1977, he returned to the Giants and had one more good season, batting .280 with 28 homers and winning NL Comeback Player of the Year honors. He tied Ted Williams on the all-time home run list with 521. Willie was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986.

Here are Willie McCovey's major league totals:

BAG
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
SB
.270
2,588
8,197
1,229
2,211
353
46
521
1,550
26

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