One of baseball’s greatest players, Willie McCovey, passed away yesterday at the age of 80. As someone who came to love baseball in the 1960s, I greatly admired McCovey and closely followed his career (I’m also pretty sure I had his baseball card… or more than a few of them). He helped form a dynamic duo for the San Francisco Giants with Willie Mays.
Here are a few stats you may not know about McCovey:
- McCovey played for three different teams in his career, all California teams: San Francisco Giants (19 seasons), San Diego Padres (three seasons) and the Oakland A’s (one season).
- He went four-for-four in his MLB debut on July 30, 1959 with a pair of triples. He is one of only 18 players to collect four or more hits in his Major League debut. Cecil Travis holds the MLB record for most hits in a debut with five; he did in 1933. Of the 18 players who had four or more hits in their MLB debut, McCovey is one of only four players to go a perfect four-for-four in his first game.
- McCovey had a pair of triples in that first game and is one of only four players to hit two triple in a debut. The last player to do so was John Sipin on May 24, 1969 for the San Diego Padres in a game versus the Chicago Cubs.
- McCovey, nicknamed “Stretch,” had a 22-game hitting streak as a rookie. The longest hitting streak by a rookie in MLB history is 34 games by San Diego Padres catcher Benito Santiago
- McCovey wore number 44 his entire career.
- He was a Rookie of the Year, All-Star Game MVP, and a National League MVP.
- Although he hit 521 career home runs, he hit 40 or more HRs only twice in his career.
- McCovey is one of only 16 players to have 35 or more home runs and 130 or more walks in a season (he had 39 HRs and 137 walks in 1970).
- He is one of only 11 players to lead the league in slugging percentage in three consecutive seasons (he did it in 1968, ‘69 and ’70). The others: Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Chuck Klein, Johnny Mize, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, Mike Schmidt and Barry Bonds.
- The most home runs he hit in the minors in a season was 29; he did that twice.
- He did have five sacrifice bunts in his career.
- A member of the 27-member 500-HR Club, McCovey has the third fewest games played of the 27 players (9,692), the third fewest hits (2,211) and the fourth most intentional walks (260).
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