Deane: Farewell to a gentle Giant

From SABR member Bill Deane at WordPress on November 7, 2018:

I was saddened to learn of the death of one of my all-time favorite baseball players, Willie McCovey. The San Francisco Giants’ legend died at age 80 on Halloween.

To NL pitchers of the 1960s and ’70s, it must have seemed fitting that McCovey died on a day associated with fright. Until Barry Bonds came along, Willie was the most feared hitter I ever saw. He would stand at the plate, a massive man taking gentle practice swings, and then unleash a ferocious, looping left-handed lash which sent many a baseball into orbit. McCovey received 45 intentional walks in 1969, and 40 in ’70; from 1955 (when they were first recorded) through 1992, nobody else had more than 33 in a season. Even now, only three players have recorded 40+ IBB in a year: Bonds five times, McCovey twice, and Albert Pujols once.

Though McCovey’s career development was delayed by his team’s depth at first base, and physical ailments cost him hundreds of games later on, he finished tied for ninth on the all-time home run list. The obituaries had all of Willie’s well-known résumé items: Rookie of the Year, MVP, 521 homers, first-ballot Hall of Famer, beloved elder statesman. I’ll write about a few things they didn’t mention.

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Originally published: November 8, 2018. Last Updated: November 8, 2018.