SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The San Francisco Giants announced Wednesday that Hall of Fame slugger Willie McCovey has died.

The team said in a statement, “It is with great sadness that we announce that San Francisco Giants Legend and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey passed away peacefully this afternoon at the age of 80 after losing his battle with ongoing health issues.”

Willie McCovey bats as San Francisco Giants batter in 1968. (AP)

Willie McCovey bats as San Francisco Giants batter in 1968. (AP)

Known as “Stretch” for his long arms and 6-foot-4 frame, McCovey played 19 seasons for the Giants, a feared power hitter who became one of the team’s most-beloved players. He was still working as a senior adviser to the Giants, a position he had held for the last 18 years.

“For more than six decades, he gave his heart and soul to the Giants,” said team president and CEO Larry Baer. “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.”

The Mobile, Ala. native retired in 1980 and was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. He finished his career with 521 home runs and a .270 average. Among the rewards and accomplishments during his major league career: a six-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, league MVP, and league leader in home runs during multiple seasons.

Each year since 2000, a Giants player is awarded the highly-coveted Willie Mac Award for most inspirational player, voted on by the players themselves.

When the Giants moved out of Candlestick Park and into Pacific Bell Park, now known at AT&T Park, local sports writers successfully lobbied to name the inlet at China Basin beyond right field as McCovey Cove – noting that the slugger would have hit a number of balls into the water had he played there.

154686996 8 San Francisco Giants Legend Willie McCovey Dies

A statue of baseball legend Willie McCovey is seen outside of McCovey Cove during Game One between the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers in the Major League Baseball World Series at AT&T Park on October 24, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

A statue honoring McCovey was erected overlooking the cove at a spot named McCovey Point.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued the following statement, “Willie McCovey brought joy to so many San Franciscans through his years on the field and dedication to our city. He was one of the greatest baseball players of all-time and also the quintessential San Francisco Giant.”

Breed said that City Hall would be lit in orange in honor of McCovey.

McCovey had attended games at AT&T Park as recently as the final game of last season.

Even four-plus decades later, it still stung for the left-handed slugging McCovey that he never won a World Series after coming so close. He lined out to end the Giants’ 1962 World Series loss to the Yankees.

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.

KPIX 5 interviewed former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown on Wednesday night, who shared memories about McCovey. The video interview can be watched below:

“Every moment he will be terribly missed,” said McCovey’s wife, Estella. “He was my best friend and husband. Living life without him will never be the same.”

McCovey had a daughter, Allison, and three grandchildren, Raven, Philip, and Marissa. McCovey also is survived by sister Frances and brothers Clauzell and Cleon.

The Giants said a public celebration of McCovey’s life would be held at a later date.

 

© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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