Willie McCovey, 80, Dies; Hall of Fame Slugger With the Giants

Willie McCovey, 80, Dies; Hall of Fame Slugger With the Giants

McCovey hit a pair of homers in the 1971 N.L. Championship Series, in which the Giants were defeated by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but by then age and injuries were beginning to take their toll. He was traded to the San Diego Padres after the 1973 season and played with them until late in 1976, when he was purchased by the Oakland A’s and appeared in 11 games as a designated hitter and pinch-hitter.

He rejoined the Giants the next season at age 39 after declaring himself a free agent and played for them through 1980, retiring as a four-decade player. Playing mostly at first base, he had a .270 career batting average, 2,211 hits and 1,555 R.B.I. to go with his 521 home runs, 18 of them grand slams, all hit in the N.L. He is in a three-way tie for 20th place on the career homers list, along with Ted Williams and Frank Thomas.

“People ask me how I’d like to be remembered,” McCovey once told The Associated Press, then added jokingly, “I tell them I’d like to be remembered as the guy who hit the line drive over Bobby Richardson’s head.”

McCovey was back in the public eye on a somber note in July 1995. Reliant on a cane, a result of his orthopedic ailments, he appeared in United States District Court in Brooklyn together with the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame center fielder Duke Snider; both men pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges for failing to report tens of thousands of dollars received in fees from autograph shows. Both were later sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $5,000.

Snider died in 2011. During his final days in office, President Barack Obama pardoned McCovey, who issued a statement through the Giants expressing gratitude “for this kind gesture on my behalf.”

McCovey is survived by his wife, Estela; a daughter, Allison, from a previous marriage; a sister, Frances; two brothers, Clauzell and Cleon; and three grandchildren.

When the Giants met the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 National League Championship Series — a prelude to the Giants’ defeat of the Texas Rangers in the World Series, their first championship in San Francisco — McCovey reflected on that lost chance to earn the Giants a World Series victory over the Yankees back in 1962.

“I loved coming up with players in scoring position and I had to drive them in,” he told The New York Times. “I don’t think anybody could have felt as bad as I did. Not only did I have a whole team on my shoulders in that at-bat, I had a whole city. At that time, I just knew I’d be up in that situation again in the future, and then I was going to come through.”

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