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Image of Willie McCovey

“Stretch”

Two days ago, on Halloween, the world lost one of the true gentlemen of sports history:  Willie Lee McCovey.  Nicknamed “Mac”, “Big Mac”, and (my personal favorite) “Stretch”, McCovey was a first baseman who defined the position for me as a child.  He played for the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball for 19 of his 22 seasons in the majors.
My earliest memory of ANY sports event was attending a baseball game as a youth at Candlestick Park and seeing McCovey, Willie Mays, and Juan Marichal in person.  My mom and I sat high in the upper deck, underneath the shell which used to line the stadium.  I don’t recall if the Giants won the game or much else about the game except – Marichal’s high-kick pitching delivery style, Mays hit a home run and “Stretch” made a terrific catch at first base.  It wasn’t a high catch (as shown in the image above).  It was low, near the ground and McCovey had to practically do the splits to make the catch.
It seems “funny” to think of this, but imagine you are Willie Mays – arguably the greatest baseball player of all time and in the top five career home run hitters in history and you bat third in the order because the guy (Willie McCovey) batting fourth, behind you, has more power…
None of the above speaks to the true greatness of the man, himself.  It is better to think of Willie McCovey this way:  his last active year was 1980.  That same year, the Giants retired his jersey number (44) and began awarding “The Willie Mac Award” which is given to the team’s most inspirational player that year, as voted on by the team’s players, coaches, training staff, and (just recently included) fans.  Finally, in 1986, in his first year of eligibility, Willie McCovey was voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
R.I.P “Stretch”.  And thanks for the childhood memories…
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