Oh, man. This saddens me.
Willie McCovey has died at the age of 80. He was a first-ballot member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. He led the National League twice in home runs.
He was considered at the peak of his career to be the “most dangerous hitter” in baseball. The term “dangerous,” I reckon, had something to do with how hard he could hit a baseball.
I want to share a brief Willie McCovey story here, just to let you know, I suppose, that I have been able to get around during my life.
In August 1964, I ventured to San Francisco after winning a trip by selling subscriptions to my hometown newspaper, the Portland Oregonian. I wasn’t yet 15 years of age.
We got to attend a baseball game on that trip at Candlestick Park, where the San Francisco Giants played hardball. They played the Cincinnati Reds that day. I got to see two other Hall of Famers that day: Willie Mays for the Giants and Frank Robinson for the Reds.
Willie McCovey, though, did something quite impressive that day. Candlestick Park was known as a place where the wind howled in from San Francisco Bay. The outfield was exposed to that wind, and it was blowing that day briskly into the stadium.
McCovey, who hit left-handed, managed to blast a home run out of Candlestick Park, over the right-field fence, straight into that hideous wind and into the bay, which came to be known as McCovey Cove.
It was quite a thrill to see McCovey hit a home run that day. If memory serves, it gave the Giants the only run they scored that day; the Reds won the game, with Robinson hitting three home runs into the left field seats.
But … this tribute is about Willie McCovey. Yeah, he could hit a baseball. He could hit it hard.
May he rest in peace.