Giants fans gather for final farewell at Willie McCovey's celebration of life

Under a hazy November sky, baseball fans filed into AT&T Park Thursday to say their final farewell to Willie McCovey, the man who helped build the San Francisco Giants legacy. 

"Actually the first game when he came up, I was in my kitchen in Oakland, listening to it on the radio. He went four for four against Robin Roberts, and I was like, ‘Wow, McCovey, yeah,’" said Giants fan Charles Thomas.

After that Thomas remembers taking the bus over from Oakland to watch Big Mac swing. "He was a Dodger killer. McCovey. He had what? 18 Grand Slams," said Thomas.

Yes, exactly 18 grand slams, which is tied with Robin Ventura for the fifth on the all-time leaders list. 

In the middle of all that black and orange Thursday, a flash of Dodger blue. Michael Lopez said even Dodger fans have to pay tribute to a great competitor, a great player and a great man. 

"He was such a gracious, quiet, powerful force, and he's been a part of our lives all of our married life," said Dodgers fan Michael Lopez.

The Lopez’s said the Dodgers-Giants rivalry has been the only speed bump in their romance. The Lopez family says Big Mac felt like a member of their family.

"In our house, there's the baby pictures, and right in the middle of that is McCovey's picture, for their whole lives, McCovey’s picture has been there," said Giants fan Susan Lopez.

Related: Willie McCovey, Giants legend and Hall of Fame first baseman, dead at 80

Fans say even decades after his last at bat, decades after his induction to the hall of fame, they remember his presence on the field. 

"Every time we came to the game, some kind of ceremony, special occasion, he was just there on the field. And even when we were younger, I remember him on first base, when he stretched, and when he'd hit that ball. He would hit it really hard, I loved it," said Giants fan Bette Gabac.

Today's ceremony ended with a tribute from the San Francisco Fire Department to Big Mac right here in McCovey Cove.

Although his number has been retired, his legacy will live on with players battling it out every year to earn the Willie Mac award. That award voted on by Giants personnel and presented to the most inspirational player.