Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey has died at age 80

Willie McCovey, the sweet-swinging Hall of Famer nicknamed 'Stretch' for his 6-foot-4 height and those long arms, died Wednesday. He was 80.

The San Francisco Giants announced McCovey's death, saying the fearsome hitter passed 'peacefully' in the afternoon 'after losing his battle with ongoing health issues.'

A former first baseman and left fielder, McCovey was a career .270 hitter with 521 home runs and 1,555 RBIs in 22 major league seasons, 19 of them with the Giants. He also played for the Athletics and Padres.

FILE - In this April 1964 file photo, San Francisco Giants' Willie McCovey poses for a photo, date and location not known. McCovey, the sweet-swinging Hall of Famer nicknamed

FILE - In this April 1964 file photo, San Francisco Giants' Willie McCovey poses for a photo, date and location not known. McCovey, the sweet-swinging Hall of Famer nicknamed 'Stretch' for his 6-foot-4 height and those long arms, has died. He was 80. The San Francisco Giants announced his death, saying the fearsome hitter passed 'peacefully' Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 31, 2018, 'after losing his battle with ongoing health issues.' (AP Photo, File)

McCovey made his major league debut at age 21 on July 30, 1959 and played alongside the other Willie - Hall of Famer Willie Mays - into the 1972 season before Mays was traded to the New York Mets that May.

McCovey batted .354 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs on the way to winning 1959 NL Rookie of the Year. The six-time All-Star also won the 1969 NL MVP and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986 after his first time on the ballot.

'You knew right away he wasn't an ordinary ballplayer,' Hall of Famer Hank Aaron said, courtesy of the Hall of Fame. 'He was so strong, and he had the gift of knowing the strike zone. There's no telling how many home runs he would have hit if those knees weren't bothering him all the time and if he played in a park other than Candlestick.'

McCovey had been getting around in a wheelchair in recent years because he could no longer rely on his once-dependable legs, yet was still regularly seen at the ballpark in his private suite. McCovey had attended games at AT&T Park as recently as the final game of the season.

FILE - In this July 23, 1969, file photo, National League's Willie McCovey of San Francisco is congratulated on crossing home in the third inning of the baseball All-Star Game in Washington after hitting in Hank Aaron (44) in Washington. McCovey hit another home in the next inning. Also shaking his hand is Ron Santo, on deck. McCovey, the sweet-swinging Hall of Famer nicknamed

FILE - In this July 23, 1969, file photo, National League's Willie McCovey of San Francisco is congratulated on crossing home in the third inning of the baseball All-Star Game in Washington after hitting in Hank Aaron (44) in Washington. McCovey hit another home in the next inning. Also shaking his hand is Ron Santo, on deck. McCovey, the sweet-swinging Hall of Famer nicknamed 'Stretch' for his 6-foot-4 height and those long arms, has died. He was 80. The San Francisco Giants announced his death, saying the fearsome hitter passed 'peacefully' Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 31, 2018, 'after losing his battle with ongoing health issues.' (AP Photo, File)

'For more than six decades, he gave his heart and soul to the Giants,' Giants President and CEO Larry Baer said. 'As one of the greatest players of all time, as a quiet leader in the clubhouse, as a mentor to the Giants who followed in his footsteps, as an inspiration to our Junior Giants, and as a fan cheering on the team from his booth.'

While the Giants captured their third World Series of the decade in 2014, McCovey returned to watch them play while still recovering from an infection that hospitalized him in September '14 for about a month.

He attended one game at AT&T Park during both the NL Championship Series and World Series. He even waited for the team at the end of the parade route inside San Francisco's Civic Center.

'It was touch and go for a while,' McCovey said at the time. 'They pulled me through, and I've come a long way.'

McCovey had been thrilled the Giants accomplished something he didn't in a decorated career in the major leagues.

FILE - In this July 3, 1980, file photo, San Francisco Giants' Willie McCovey raises his hands in salute to the cheering crowd after he was replaced in the lineup in the team's baseball game with the Cincinnati Reds in San Francisco. It was the last home appearance before retirement for the popular veteran. McCovey, the sweet-swinging Hall of Famer nicknamed

FILE - In this July 3, 1980, file photo, San Francisco Giants' Willie McCovey raises his hands in salute to the cheering crowd after he was replaced in the lineup in the team's baseball game with the Cincinnati Reds in San Francisco. It was the last home appearance before retirement for the popular veteran. McCovey, the sweet-swinging Hall of Famer nicknamed 'Stretch' for his 6-foot-4 height and those long arms, has died. He was 80. The San Francisco Giants announced his death, saying the fearsome hitter passed 'peacefully' Wednesday

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