Baseball legend Willie McCovey Dead at 80, San Francisco Giants Confirm

Willie McCovey
Giants legend Willie McCovey at AT&T Park Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants announced the death of Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey at the age of 80 on Wednesday following a "battle with ongoing health issues."

"It is with great sadness that we announce that San Francisco Giants Legend and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey passed away peacefully this afternoon at the age of 80 after losing his battle with ongoing health issues #Forever44," the club tweeted on Wednesday evening.

McCovey passed away at Stanford Hospital and had developed another infection recently, which forced him to be hospitalized last week, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Hall of Fame first baseman had been in a wheel chair for an extended period during the latter part of his life due to arthritic knees and had nearly died four years ago after battling a serious infection.

McCovey was reportedly rushed to the hospital during the Giants' final home game of the 2018 season on Sept. 30, but was released shortly thereafter.

Playing alongside fellow Hall of Famer Willie Mays, McCovey was part of one of the most talented duos in baseball history, although the two made only one World Series appearance together.

The first baseman's ninth inning line drive was the final out of the Giants' 1962 World Series loss to the New York Yankees, which was the closest the franchise got to winning a title since moving to San Francisco until ending its draught in 2010.

McCovey was one of the brightest stars in Major League Baseball during the 1960s and '70s having finished his career with 521 home runs (which is still tied for 20th all-time, 38 years after his retirement) and played 22 total seasons, 19 of which were with the Giants, as well as three with the San Diego Padres and 11 games with the Oakland Athletics.

McCovey's decorated career includes winning the 1959 National League Rookie of the Year award, the 1969 NL Most Valuable Player award and 1977 NL Comeback Player of the Year award. He also made six All-Star appearances and hit 18 grand slams during his career, which is the most in NL history.

The Giants have honored McCovey's legacy in numerous ways since his retirement. The franchise retired his No. 44 in 1980, created the Willie Mac Award -- which is given to the team's most inspirational player and is voted on by teammates -- and named a cove outside of AT&T Park "McCovey Cove" after opening the China Basin-area stadium in 2000.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the name stemmed from sportswriters Mark Purdy and Leonard Koppett noting that if McCovey would have "deposited dozens of balls into the water beyond the right-field fence" had he played after the stadium opened.

In 2003, the franchise unveiled a statue of McCovey that was erected at China Basin Park, which sits on the opposite side of the cove from the stadium, which depicts him at the finishing point of his swing.