A Giant among Giants

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A Giant among Giants

The Baseball Life of Willie McCovey

Chris Haft

240 pages
33 photographs, 1 table, 1 appendix, index

Hardcover

February 2025

978-1-4962-3624-1

$32.95 Pre-order

About the Book

Willie McCovey, known as “Stretch,” played Major League Baseball from 1959 to 1980, most notably as a member of the San Francisco Giants for nineteen seasons. A fearsome left-handed power hitter, McCovey ranked second only to Babe Ruth in career home runs among left-handed batters, and tied for eighth overall with Ted Williams at the time of his retirement. He was a six-time All-Star, three-time National League home run champion, and 1969 league MVP, and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 in his first year of eligibility. Known as a dead-pull line-drive hitter, McCovey was called “the scariest hitter in baseball” by pitcher Bob Gibson.

Born in Mobile, Alabama, McCovey encountered daunting hurdles, such as Jim Crow laws that prevented him from playing organized ball as a youth and playing for Major League managers such as Tom Sheehan and Alvin Dark, who took a dim view of his abilities. But neither that nor other difficulties on the field—the platooning, the slights, the unrelenting injuries—seemed to affect McCovey, as he remained grateful to be playing baseball.

McCovey was the most treasured Bay Area icon of all, a humble, approachable superstar who earned the admiration of seemingly everyone he encountered. McCovey’s life wasn’t measured in his home run and RBI totals, though those were impressive. His greatest significance lay in the warmth and respect he extended and which others reciprocated. These elements elevated McCovey to a pantheon where relatively few athletes reside. He remains synonymous with not just the team he ennobled but also the city he represented.

In A Giant among Giants, the first biography of McCovey, who passed away in 2018 at the age of eighty, Chris Haft tells the story of one of baseball’s best hitters and most-beloved players.
 

Author Bio

Chris Haft has spent nearly thirty years covering Major League Baseball, including fourteen seasons on the Giants beat: 2005–6 with the San Jose Mercury News and 2007–18 for MLB.com. He is the author of If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the San Francisco Giants Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box, among other books.
 

Praise

“Mac’s many fans will love this book. They’ll enjoy reliving his great moments and appreciate getting to know him better as a man. He was such a good hitter that I wouldn’t steal second base because I didn’t want the pitcher to walk him. This book has a lot of great stories.”—Willie Mays, former center fielder and one of the all-time greatest MLB players

“Willie McCovey was such a big man and such a kind man. He made a lasting impression on me when he’d come into the clubhouse. He was always really positive. He’d always stop by my office to say, ‘Hey, Boch, how are you doing?’ That was one of the cool things about coming to San Francisco. . . . He’d give me time and show me respect. I remember catching when he was up to hit and I’d think, ‘Wow!’ because of the way he carried himself and had a grace to his swing.”—Bruce Bochy, four-time World Series–winning manager

“I never, never heard anybody say anything bad about McCovey. He was a classy guy. No question about it. Everybody tried to imitate the McCovey stance. By the late 1960s Mays’s star was fading. Bobby Bonds had not yet fully developed. So it was kind of McCovey’s team.”—Chris Russo, MLB Network feature host

Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1: Instant Success
Chapter 2: Man from Mobile
Chapter 3: Starting to Struggle
Chapter 4: Learning Lessons
Chapter 5: "The Day I Hit the Line Drive"
Chapter 6: Domination of Don
Chapter 7: The Peak Years
Chapter 8: Eclipsing a Legend
Chapter 9: Mr. MVP
Chapter 10: Edging Toward an Exit
Chapter 11: San Diego Hiatus
Chapter 12: Triumphant Return
Chapter 13: A Hero Departs
Chapter 14: A Cherished Honor
Chapter 15: Bound for Cooperstown
Chapter 16: The Cove
Chapter 17: Bay Area Symbol
Chapter 18: Double Trouble at First Base
Chapter 19: Playing in Pain Part of the Game
Chapter 20: Quiet? Yes. Shy? Not Really
Chapter 21: Friends and Family
Chapter 22: The Final Year
Acknowledgements
Appendix
Notes on Sources

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