SAN FRANCISCO - Once news spread of San Francisco Giants great Willie McCovey’s death, fans began paying their condolences and sharing their fond memories of the baseball legend.
Early Thursday morning, mourners left flowers, caps and messages at the Willie McCovey statue in San Francisco by AT&T Park, where a section of the bay beyond right field wall was named for the famed first baseman, who died on Wednesday at age 80.
“I've been a fan of the Giants since I was a kid,” said Jose Gutierrez of San Francisco. “It’s a big loss. He’s looking down from heaven.”
McCovey had 521 home runs in his career. He played for 19 of his 22 seasons in major league baseball with the Giants and he was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.
Long after he retired, McCovey served in a senior advisory role for the Giants for 18 years. So even though he hadn't played for decades he was still very much a part of the Giants organization.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown recalled his favorite memory of McCovey, when Brown and Willie Mays all threw the first pitch together at a Giants game years ago.
“Willie Mays threw first, right down the center and the catcher caught it. Willie McCovey threw second, he did around about. I did third and I rolled it and McCovey grabbed me and hugged me and said, you did it.
Rev. Cecil Williams, retired pastor from Glide Memorial Church, also spoke fondly about his friend. Williams described McCovey on a personal level as kind, genuine, humble with a special ability to connect with people.
Sports writer C.W. Nevius called McCovey an ambassador for the team and city. Former 49er wide receiver Jerry Rice called McCovey a "really great individual."
Giants team officials say there will be some sort of public memorial for McCovey, with details to be announced at a later date.