Willie McCovey, a Hall of Famer with the San Francisco Giants, died Wednesday afternoon at the age of 80.
The team confirmed his death in a statement, noting McCovey had been battling ongoing health issues.
McCovey, six-time All-Star, spent 19 of his 22 major league seasons with the Giants and was named National League MVP in 1969 and National League Rookie of the Year in 1959. Three times in his career he was the NL home run leader (1963, 1968, 1969), and twice he led the league in RBIs (1968, 1969).
He was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.
“San Francisco and the entire baseball community lost a true gentleman and legend, and our collective hearts are broken,” Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said in the statement.
“For more than six decades, he gave his heart and soul to the Giants – as one of the greatest players of all time, as a quiet leader in the clubhouse, as a mentor to the Giants who followed in his footsteps, as an inspiration to our Junior Giants, and as a fan cheering on the team from his booth.”
When he retired in 1980, McCovey was second to Lou Gehrig in career grand slams (18) and recorded the most homers (231) ever at Candlestick Park. He also set a major league record for most seasons played – 22 – at first base.
Additionally, he became the fifth player in major league history to capture back-to-back home run and RBI titles after hitting 36 homers and driving in 105 runs in 1968, then earning NL Most Valuable Player honors with 45 home runs and 126 RBI in 1969.
Until Barry Bonds passed him in 2001, McCovey’s 521 career home runs were more than any other left-handed hitter in National League history. His 521 mark is tied for 20th on baseball’s all-time list with Frank Thomas and Ted Williams.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, in part, “For 22 years on the field and many more after retiring, Willie was a superb ambassador for the Giants and our game.
“When the Giants moved to their new ballpark, they appropriately honored Willie through the naming of McCovey Cove, where a new generation of fans learned about his remarkable career. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Willie’s family, friends and all fans of the Giants.”
McCovey’s daughter, Allison McCovey, noted in the statement, “I am grateful that my father passed peacefully surrounded by his family and friends while listening to his favorite sports channel.”
Willie is survived by his daughter; his wife, Estela; his sister, Frances; and brothers Clauzell and Cleon.
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