Photo courtesy of San Francisco Giants
There is no shortage of stories to tell about Willie McCovey. The Giants legend died earlier today and Giants commentators have been recalling some of their favorite moments and memories of McCovey’s career on KNBR.
Of course, if there’s anyone with a plethora of stories to tell, it’s Jon Miller. The longtime Giants broadcaster said one of the memories he was drawn back to in McCovey’s career wasn’t any of his 521 home runs, although it was a product of his power. Miller was drawn back to a moment in what he think came in the 1970 Giants season, when there was artificial turf at Candlestick Park as the stadium prepared to host the 49ers.
Miller remembered the surprising speed McCovey boasted in addition to his almost unbelievable power. He came up to bat in the first inning and the shift was put on – commonplace today, but a move only forced by sluggers like McCovey and Willie Stargell back then, Miller said. It left a massive gap on the third-base side with Willie Mays on first, following a two-out hit.
“Mays got on first base with two down and they went into the big shift for McCovey as they often did,” Miller said. “Willie went ahead and laid down a bunt down the third base side and he bunted it hard enough that it went right down the line past third base and into left field and Mays score from first on a bunt. McCovey ended up with a double. To this day, it was the most outstanding thing I’ve ever seen in a baseball game.”
To give context to the sort of power teams had to prepare for, Miller also recalled the words of Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges.
“Russ Hodges, the great, Hall of Fame voice of the Giants, used to say that every ballpark they went into, they used to point to a spot in that ballpark and say, ‘That’s the spot where McCovey hit the longest home run we’ve ever seen in that ballpark.'”