Saturday, February 12, 2011

#450 - Willie McCovey

Card fact: This is the first Topps card of Willie McCovey in an actual Padres uniform. He is airbrushed into a Padres cap in the 1974 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: I don't remember which brother had this card, but I do know it was around. The thing is that I knew McCovey only as a Padre for a couple of years. The first time I saw him was on this card, and I identified him as a Padre. Little did I know that McCovey's Padre years were the worst part of his career.

What I think about this card now: Don't just stand there, do something!

Other stuff: Willie McCovey was one of the greatest power hitters of all-time, spending most of his career with the Giants. He was a four-decade player, starting in 1959 and ending in 1980. He went 4-for-4 in his major league debut (against Robin Roberts) and won the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award in '59 despite playing in just 52 games.

McCovey's most famous moment came in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. McCovey came to bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, runners on second and third and the Giants trailing the Yankees 1-0. McCovey scalded a line drive that Bobby Richardson leapt to snare for the third out. I admit I am conflicted by this moment -- both bummed that the Yankees won another World Series and thrilled that the Giants lost in the most painful way possible.

McCovey continued to hammer N.L. pitching through the '60s and won the NL MVP award in 1969. But his performance trailed off in the early '70s, and he was traded to San Diego for Mike Caldwell after the '73 season. McCovey started OK with San Diego, but ended up hitting abysmally for both the Padres and during his brief stay with the A's.

He was reacquired by the Giants, and I remember his triumphant 1977 season when he re-emerged for one last solid season and won Comeback Player of the Year honors.

"Stretch," who has had his share of health issues the last few years, is an advisor to the Giants.

(EDIT: McCovey died at age 80 on Oct. 31, 2018).

Back facts: This might be the most confusing cartoon in the whole set. I do not know what it means and it's too late to go on a fact-finding mission. The question asks "Who was The Hat?" which I would assume to be a nickname. But then the answer comes back with "Jerry Lynch with 18." With 18? With 18 what? 18 hats?

I know Jerry Lynch was one of the best pinch-hitters of all-time. I have a card of his from the '56 set. I should check it and see if he's referred to as The Hat and how that connects with the No. 18. Anyone with more free time than I, please take a crack at enlightening me.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1999, the Padres signed country singer Garth Brooks and invited him to spring training as a non-roster invitee. How'd that work out, San Diego?


Matt Runyon said...

"Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball three feet higher!" -- classic Peanuts cartoon

Play at the Plate said...

McCovey looks funny in a Pads uni.

When Jerry Lynch retired, he held the MLB record with 18 pinch hit homeruns. That record is now held by Matt Stairs with 23.

Flitgun Frankie said...

My suspicion is they mixed up the answer to another question. The correct answer to this question, "Who was the Hat?" Is "Harry Walker", who around this time, maybe a couple of years before, was managing the Houston Astros. The Jerry Lynch goes with a question about pinch hitting which may turn up later in the set.