Rest in Peace, Willie McCovey

Willie McCovey
Born: Jan. 10, 1938
Died: Oct. 31, 2018
We Love You, Willie!

We often talk and write of baseball as a game of seconds and inches. Those factors were never more critical than they were in Game Seven of the 1962 World Series. The date was October 16th. The site was Candlestick Park. The setting was the bottom of the 9th Terry kept the Giants at bay through eight innings, but he allowed a bunt single to Matty Alou to lead of the bottom of the ninth, with the New York Yankees leading the San Francisco Giants, 1-0, with Ralph Terry on the mound, needing only three more outs to settle one of the closest played World Series on record ~ and only two years after the 9th inning homer he gave up to Bill Mazeroski in Pittsburgh that cost the Yankees an earlier Game Seven and probably sealed the deed on transforming the scrappy Pirate second baseman into a future Hall of Famer.

Sometimes the lock on short memory is harder to find than at others. Terry had held off the Giants for eight innings in Game Seven back in 1962, but would he be able to hold off the memory of Mazeroski in the 9th for every critical pitch he needed to make this time? The use of pitchers was different back then. If there was any talk of someone else coming in to “close” the 9th for Terry and the Yanks, I don’t recall who or what that alternative might have been.

Bottom of the 9th

Matty Alou led off the bottom of the 9th for the Giants by reaching first base on a bunt single. His success seemed to steel the will of Terry ~ and he responded strongly by striking out Felipe Alou and Chuck Hiller to bring things down to a last-out-needed Yankee proposition. ~ One more out and the Yankees again were World Series Champions. ~ Two more runs and the Giants would harvest their first World Series win since the club’s 1958 move to the West Coast.

Then Willie Mays cranked up the heat for the Giants. His double to right sent Alou to third base. ~ Only a great throw from Roger Maris in right kept Matty from scoring. ~ But the stage temp had been elevated to white heat. ~ With two outs, the Giants had the tying run at third and the winning run at second ~ in the presence of two speedy runners ~ and the powerful Willie McCovey coming to bat with a shot of his own at a possible “Mazeroski Moment.”

McCovey had tripled and died at third during his previous 7th inning time at bat. Why Yankees manager Ralph Houk didn’t either walk McCovey in the 9th ~ or relieve Terry on the mound ~ are beyond my memory of considered alternatives this morning, except to again stress that these were different times. ~ Terry would pitch to McCovey ~ with everything on the line for all involved.

I remember watching this climax play out on a grainy black and white television screen at Otto’s Hamburger Joint in the Memorial near Shepherd Drives area. It was late afternoon when the climax moment arrived. They were still playing the World Series in the daytime back then ~ and quite a few of us were huddled near that maybe 14 inch screen TV set that was carrying the game that sunshiny-in-Houston day.

McCovey at the plate. We are watching him bat left-handed from a camera perched somewhere on the first base line side of things. The picture vista is broad enough to cover McCovey and any infielder who may have a play on a batted ball.

“There’s a line drive to right….”

Not quite. The rocket-speed shot off the bat of McCovey goes screaming toward right, but it never gets there. Little Bobby Richardson, the New York 2nd baseman has snared the liner in his glove. It’s not coming out. It’s out three. The game is over. The New York Yankees are the World Series Champions of the World. Again. And the Giants have lost.

Before all that good stuff could sink in. We united strangers at the hamburger joint in Houston are still trying to digest that little eye-flicker streak that so abruptly ended in Mr. Richardson’s glove. Once we begin to digest its full meaning, a collective sigh of “AHHHHHhhhhh” exhales from our lungs over what we’ve just been robbed of seeing. …. Alou easily scores the tying run …. now here comes Mays, sliding around a laser throw from Maris in right …. he’s safe …. the Giants win the Series ….  and here come the Giants, pouring onto the field, …. chasing after McCovey near first base …. and here comes Alou and Mays to pile on too! ….. (only it didn’t happen. Hence, the “AHHHHHhhhhh” exhalations.)

This is the moment I think of most when I think of Willie McCovey. A couple of inches higher or wider on that Game Seven ball’s final out flight pattern, and we would be celebrating 1962 to this day as one of the greatest comebacks in World Series history.

Ralph Terry was the 1962 Series MVP. And Willie McCovey later went into the Hall of Fame without “the big hit” in that game. He was too great to have his HOF worthiness riding on one big World Series moment. “I had a chance to be a big hero if I had gotten a hit and drove in those two runs,” McCovey said. “But it just didn’t happen.”

You were a big hero, anyway, big man ~ and you will never be forgotten. I will also be grateful for the time in Houston I got to meet you during an autograph show. You were one of the guys that made us fans feel welcome, and not like an easy buck signing dollar. I will never forget your kindness to us fans in Houston that day. I also got a kick out of learning that our birthdates were only ten days apart. I was your elder by ten days.

Rest in Peace, Willie McCovey. ~ You are still very loved by the world of baseball.

The Obituary Article

Thank you, Paul Rogers, for this reference to the wonderful obituary article on Willie McCovey in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. It’s such a must-read for McCovey fans that we also want to do all we are able to make sure you’ve seen it too. Here’s the link:



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


8 Responses to “Rest in Peace, Willie McCovey”

  1. Dr. Baseball Says:

    I remember watching Will Mc Covey play in the Texas League in ’57 or ’58. I don’t remember anyone playing 4 outfielders against him!

  2. Fred Soland Says:

    Bill, while you were watching this day game at the beloved “Otto’s”, were you skipping class at STHS, or had the Basilian brotherhood decided that you deserved to be there? We used to get detention for cutting class when I went there. Inquiring minds want to know more about the “McCurdy Magic”

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      The “McCurdy Magic” is simple, Fred. ~ When you graduate from STHS in 1956, the Basilian brotherhood no longer has jurisdiction over your freedom to watch the 1962 World Series any damn time and place you please. 🙂 Thanks for thinking that I was still young enough to have been in high school in 1962.

  3. Tom Hunter Says:

    I remember seeing the 6’4″ Willie McCovey standing in the batter’s box in the Astrodome and towering over the catcher and home plate umpire. He was a frightening presence at the plate in the same manner as Willie Stargell, another great Hall of Famer from that era. I’m sure the Giants will be wearing a tribute to number 44 on their uniforms next year. RIP.

  4. Randy Foltin Says:

    Great article Bill. For most, and rightfully so,the towering moonshot home runs make the greatest impression and are awe-inspiring. But the greatest home run I ever saw was the quickest. It was a September day game at the Dome when somehow I was the luckiest kid in Houston to be at the Astros vs Giants game with 3 other members of Cy-Fair’s basketball program and not a supervising adult to be seen. It happened do quick you might have thought it didn’t hsppen, and if you blinked you missed it which may have contributed to the silence that accompanied it as if he had now only stepped into the box. But what had just transpired in a microsecond was Willie McCoy hitting a frozen rope that instantaneously hit one inch above the right field home run line and one inch to the left of the foul pole.

  5. Larry Dierker Says:

    Big Stretch. I am saddened to hear of his passing. I remember that he was thought to be too easy going at first, Some thought it was lack of desire or hustle. I remember his two home runs in the ’69 All-Star game.

    He had lost what speed he had afoot and a little bat speed at the end, but was revered as an elder statesman and an example of professionalism to young players.

    It also makes me think of my friend Joe Morgan. They were close.

  6. Cliff Blau Says:

    Looks like Marshall Bridges would have been the pick to relieve Terry, if Houk had wanted to do so. He was the Yankees top reliever that year, and a lefty.

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