Hall of Fame slugger McCovey Dies

Hall of Fame slugger McCovey Dies

Willie McCovey, one of the great left-handed power hitters of all time, a first-ballot inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 and a beloved member of the San Francisco Giants family, passed away peacefully Wednesday after a battle with health issues. He was 80 years old.

McCovey narrowly beat out Mets pitcher Tom Seaver for the 1969 MVP award. McCovey led the NL in home runs (45) and RBIs (126) for the second straight year, batting .320 while also posting NL bests with a .453 on-base percentage and .656 slugging percentage. He was walked 121 times, then drew a career-high 137 free passes the next season.

He had been third in the ’68 voting for NL MVP, but after 1969 would never again finish higher than ninth.

McCovey and Ted Williams before him were among the first players to really face infield shifts as opponents tried to affect his rhythm at the plate.

On Wednesday night, former teammate Felipe Alou recalled inviting McCovey to play winter ball with him in 1958 for Escogido in Alou’s native Dominican Republic.

McCovey got homesick, so a still-single Alou moved out of his parents’ home and into an apartment with his dear friend and teammate. They were roommates in the minors and majors, too. McCovey called Alou “Rojas,” his father’s last name. Alou called him “Willie Lee,” McCovey’s middle name.

“We had a great relationship. Incredible friend and player and individual,” Alou said. “I have so many good memories.”

McCovey was born on Jan. 10, 1938, in Mobile, Alabama. He had spent the last 18 years in a senior advisory role for the Giants.