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. 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.
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