A Giant Among Men Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rednour   
Thursday, 30 September 2010

Willie McCovey was so inspiring to his fellow teammates that they named an award after his winning attitude

The true test of greatness for any MLB player is his legacy in the league and amongst his teammates - past, present and future. For the players, staff and fans of the San Francisco Giants, there is one man will always personify the true meaning of the word “INSPIRATION”…and that man is “Willie Mac” Willie McCovey.

Since 1980 (the year McCovey retired) The “Willie Mac” Award has been voted on by current players and coaches, and presented annually to active member of the Giant’s roster who best exemplifies the competitive spirit, ability and leadership consistently shown by “Stretch” as he was known throughout his 22-year career.

Over the years the award has gone to many phenomenal players, including: Jack Clark, Joe Morgan, Jose Uribe, Jeff Kent, and Benito Santiago; while a handful of young phenoms have won the award twice, including: Mike Krukow and J.T. Snow and Bengie Molina. Over the years, the award has gone to seven pitchers, four first basemen, four second basemen, six catchers, three center fielders, three shortstops, two right fielders, one third baseman and one left fielder. All of whom gave been honored with plagues with their names placed in the ground surrounding the statue of Willie McCovey on the southern shore of China Basin, unofficially known as McCovey Cove.

On October 1st, the Giants are staging a reunion of former Willie Mac Award winners, including last year’s winner Matt Cain. But the one guest who may not make the party is the guest of honor. Despite the fact that he is recovering from major back surgery that has caused him to miss out on his favorite summer pastime since August – watching his beloved Giants from his booth at AT&T Park, 72-year-old McCovey has circled Oct. 1 on his calendar and is working hard in his daily rehab exercise to make sure he can attend the ceremony,

"We all know Willie well enough to know that when he's not at the ballpark, something isn't right," said Giants Senior Vice President Mario Alioto. "But he watches every game. He making very good progress, and he sounded great when I talked to him today."

J.T. Snow, a two-time winner, said it will be an emotionally charged moment when McCovey presents this year’s award. “It wouldn’t be the same without him,” Snow said. “Guys just get a thrill out of standing on the field with him. It’s a pretty cool fraternity to be in. … You see guys like Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, and you feel like a Little Leaguer next to them.”

So the man whose athleticism and natural enjoyment of the game ruled so many warm summer days in San Francisco is doing his best to continue to spread his love of the game (and its people) to current and future generations. What else do you expect from the guy who once said: “It's really been a love affair here with me and the fans. I don't know why they adopted me so much, but they did. I guess because I started my career here and I stayed here and made it my home. Most ballplayers would leave and go different places in the offseason. I stayed out here and would attend all the events, and I think San Francisco people really like that.”

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