Giants great and baseball Hall of Famer Willie McCovey died Wednesday afternoon, according to a team official. He was 80.
The Giants released a statement announcing McCovey’s death, saying he passed away peacefully after losing his battle with ongoing health issues.
“San Francisco and the entire baseball community lost a true gentleman and legend, and our collective hearts are broken,” said Giants President and CEO Larry Baer. “Willie was a beloved figure throughout his playing days and in retirement. He will be deeply missed by the many people he touched. For more than six decades, he gave his heart and soul to the Giants – 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.”
McCovey played 22 seasons in the majors, 19 with the Giants. He won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1959 and the NL Most Valuable Player award in 1969. The six-time all-star was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.
“Willie’s greatest passion was his family and our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife, Estella, and his daughter, Allison, and her children Raven, Philip, and Marissa,” Baer added.
McCovey had health issues in recent years and was confined to a wheelchair, but he was still a regular at AT&T Park, where the cove beyond right field has taken his name. In his playing days, McCovey was one of the most feared hitters in the game, and he put together a career that is nearly unmatched by left-handed hitters in MLB history.
He hit 521 home runs and drove in 1,555 runs during his career. He slugged .515 across more than 8,000 career at-bats.
After hearing of McCovey’s passing, fellow athletes took to social media to share their anguish in heartfelt posts.
“Mac, I am crying over losing you even when you told me not to,” San Francisco Giants great Barry Bonds tweeted. “I remember asking you what I would do without all of you around. You told me when that day comes – and it will one day – to keep the tradition of Giants baseball living forever.”
NBA and University of San Francisco basketball legend Bill Russell tweeted: “I’m extremely sad to hear of the passing of my dear friend @SFGiants Legend Willie McCovey. I will always have fond memories of him. Our thoughts are with his family.”
McCovery’s daughter Allison also released a statement.
“I am grateful that my father passed peacefully surrounded by his family and friends while listening to his favorite sports channel,” she said.
His wife Estella McCovey added: “Every moment he will be terribly missed. He was my best friend and husband. Living life without him will never be the same.”
McCovey is also survived by his sister Frances and his brothers, Clauzell and Cleon.
NBC Sports Bay Area contributed to this story.