A San Francisco landmark: Giants community gathers to mourn Willie McCovey

SAN FRANCISCO–Thirty two years ago, Willie McCovey stood on the stage on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown, New York and spoke about his family.

At a Hall of Fame ceremony designed to commemorate McCovey’s career and honor his on-field accomplishments, the San Francisco Giants first baseman turned the tribute around and shined the spotlight on those he felt closest to.

“Like the Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars, I’ve been made to feel like a landmark too,” McCovey said with gratitude.

McCovey thanked his family from Mobile, Alabama, his family that proudly wore the Giants uniform alongside him and the city of San Francisco, a family that made him its most beloved adopted son. Family from all corners of the world made McCovey feel like the living legend he had become.

Thirty two years later, McCovey’s family gathered to shine the spotlight back where it belongs.

Along the waterfront that bears his name and inside a stadium where his No. 44 will hang forever, McCovey’s life was celebrated Thursday. After a long battle with ongoing health issues, McCovey passed away Wednesday, October 31 at 80 years old.

McCovey became the 16th player in baseball history to be elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility thanks to a career that featured 521 home runs, six All-Star appearances and one MVP Award. Those accomplishments are all noted on McCovey’s bronze plaque at Cooperstown, but they didn’t need to be echoed in front of hundreds of fans who arrived at AT&T Park Thursday.

The Giants community fell in love with McCovey the player for his smooth swing and quiet confidence, but they idolized McCovey the man for the way he carried himself.

“I have never been around a more humble man,” 1989 Willie Mac Award winner Dave Dravecky said. “I have never been around someone who lifted up others around him more than himself. I’ve never been around a man who loved so deeply and cared so much about wearing the Giants uniform.”

With legends like Willie Mays, Barry Bonds and Orlando Cepeda in attendance Thursday, Giants CEO Larry Baer said no player “has ever been more beloved in our community than Willie McCovey.”

McCovey was one of five Hall of Famers including Hank Aaron and Ozzie Smith born in Mobile, but he was the first to start and finish his career playing for a club based in San Francisco. Though fans around the Bay Area traveled to Seals Stadium and Candlestick Park to watch McCovey play, his godson Jeff Dudum said McCovey once refused his request to consider moving to the East Bay.

“I’m a Giant,” McCovey told Dudum. “What would my fans think if I lived over in the A’s territory?”

Even after his retirement in 1980, McCovey remained a pillar of the San Francisco community and attended nearly every home game at AT&T Park. His desire to connect with fans never wavered, as he often entertained guests who stopped by to share memories of watching McCovey play in his suite during games.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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