Willie Lee McCovey had a few nicknames during his time playing Major League Baseball. He was known as "Mac" and his height earned him the nickname "Stretch." However, most people probably remember him for being called "Big Mac" because, let's face it, the man was big. He was a big man with power and fielding ability and he spent his career playing on the West Coast. Now that the regular season is getting set to start, it is always interesting to look at the greatest players who have lived. McCovey, just like all players, also showed up to spring training each year, just like players today. It’s part of what made him so great.
Willie McCovey was born in the deep south, in 1938, in Mobile, Alabama. He was a big guy and he would use his height and girth to his advantage as a baseball player. He was considered one of the most intimidating hitters of his era, and perhaps he remains one of the most intimidating hitters of any era.
He played for the San Francisco Giants first, starting in 1959. Before that he played a few seasons in the minor leagues for the Giants farm club in Dallas. However, a man that big was destined for great things and he announced himself that very first season he played. He ended up going four-for-four against Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts in his debut. He hit a stunning two triples, one of the hardest hits to get in baseball, and two singles to end up with a .354 batting average. That year he would end up with the National League Rookie of the Year award.
Then, three years later, he would help the Giants win the 1962 World Series against the New York Yankees. Probably his most famous moment as a baseball player happened in the ninth game of that series when, in the bottom of the ninth of the 7th game of the Series, he came up to the plate. The Giants were down 1-0 and Willie Mays was on second base and Matty Alou was on third. McCovey just needed to hit a single, and he belted a hard-hit ball that was somehow snagged by the Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson. That was the closest Willie McCovey would get to a World Series championship.
McCovey played for the Giants until 1973 and then went to the San Diego Padres and then the Oakland Athletics from 1974 - 1976. He would then return to the Giants in 1977 and continue to play until 1980. Even then he was impressive. In 1977 he became one of the few players to hit two home runs in a single inning, one of which was a grand slam.
McCovey would retire after the 1980 season. He retired with a career batting average of .270 and 521 home runs. He also had 1,555 RBIs. He was a six-time All Star and was the 1969 National League MVP. He was a three-time National League Home Run Champ and in 1969 was the All Star Game's MVP. He was so good in 1977 that he was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year.
Eventually the San Francisco Giants retired his number, 44. Then, in 1986, he was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. It was his first year of eligibility. Big Mac will now go down in history as one of the most powerful and impressive hitters the sport has ever seen. McCovey is still involved within the Giants organization, making personal appearances, but also offering advice and coaching to younger players.