Barry Bonds

Emotional Barry Bonds pays tribute to 'Uncle Mac' Willie McCovey

Emotional Barry Bonds pays tribute to 'Uncle Mac' Willie McCovey

When Barry Bonds came home to San Francisco to sign with the Giants, he had one request for the player he grew up admiring. And it wasn't for Willie Mays, his godfather, who perhaps has been his biggest inspiration aside from his father, Bobby.

Barry had a big question for Willie McCovey.

"I go back with Mac as a little boy as much as I go back with Willie Mays," Bonds said Thursday at AT&T Park during McCovey's celebration of life. "I idolized Willie Mays, but I was born left-handed and my first glove was a first baseman's glove. As much as I always wanted to be like Say Hey, I always had to stretch like Mac.

"My father and McCovey were great friends. Mac loved our family unconditionally. And in 1993, when I came back to San Francisco, I asked Mac if I could call him 'Uncle Mac,' because I've always admired him and he's always taught me the game of baseball as much as Willie [Mays] and my father have. Mac said, 'I wouldn't want anything more than for you to call me Uncle Mac.' "

Bonds, who acknowledged how rarely he publicly speaks at events, then spoke on the day the Giants forever honored him by retiring his jersey number, just like the franchise did in the past for Mays and McCovey. 

"I also want to thank the Giants organization for allowing Mac to be here to have my number retired and my uncle was here," Bonds said before stepping aside to hold back tears. "I appreciate that a lot." 

The two sluggers always will go down as some of the greatest Giants ever and the greatest power hitters the game has seen, period. An aspect of AT&T Park has their power forever remembered. 

"I want to thank you Mac because we're connected," Bonds said. "I want to thank the Giants for giving Mac that cove out there. And I want to thank Mac for letting me hit a bunch of baseballs in his cove." 

AT&T Park opened for the 2000 season. Through 2018, there have been 78 splash hits with home runs smashed from Giants into the cove. Bonds alone has 35, easily the most by any Giant. 

To close out his speech, Bonds went back to what McCovey, the Giants and all of San Francisco mean to him. 

"Like I said, I'm connected," Bonds said. "I'm connected in left field. My godfather's in center field. My father's in right field. Mac's at first base. Gaylord [Perry] is on the mound. Tito [Fuentes] at second base. Chris Speier at shortstop. I wish Jimmy Ray Hart was still around, he'd be my third baseman. Dave Rader was catching at that time when I was a little boy."

But before he stepped away from the mic, Bonds had one more splash hit for Uncle Mac. 

"And McCovey, thank you so much for allowing me to out-hit everyone in your cove," Bonds said.

Willie McCovey's stats show his place as league's most-feared slugger

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AP

Willie McCovey's stats show his place as league's most-feared slugger

SAN FRANCISCO — For the next couple of months, the baseball world will center around Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Machado hit 37 homers in 2018 and slugged .538. Harper hit 34 homers and slugged .496. 

Willie McCovey slugged .515 … for his entire career.

Over 22 seasons and 8,197 at-bats, McCovey had an average slugging percentage that would put him right on par with today’s biggest stars. At his peak, he was as dangerous as any hitter, breaking the .600 mark in three different seasons and slugging .656 in 1969, when he won the National League’s MVP award.

In an organization that also featured Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, it sometimes has been difficult for McCovey, who died Wednesday at age 80, to get his share of credit as a pure hitter. He was known as a humble star, and he certainly wasn't the type to tell you what he accomplished. But as you celebrate McCovey, maybe take a few minutes to look back at his numbers, which put him in the National Baseball Hall of Fame when he was eligible for the first time in 1986.

McCovey won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1959 and never stopped hitting. He had double-digit homers in 17 consecutive seasons to start his career, making the All-Star team six times. He had seven 30-homer seasons, hitting 44 in 1963 and 45 in 1969. Even with the offensive explosion of the past two decades, McCovey still is tied with Frank Thomas for 20th all time with 521 homers. 

That 1969 season was McCovey’s best, and he edged Tom Seaver for the MVP award. McCovey had a .320/.453/.656 slash line that year, leading the league in OBP and slugging. He drove in 126 runs and posted an OPS+ of 209.

Years before teams decided to stop pitching to Barry Bonds, they did the same with McCovey. He shattered the previous NL mark by drawing 45 intentional walks in 1969, and the next year he got 40 more. McCovey led the league in intentional walks again in 1971 and 1973.

Barry Bonds, Willie Mays give emotional speeches at jersey retirement ceremony

Barry Bonds, Willie Mays give emotional speeches at jersey retirement ceremony

SAN FRANCISCO — Just before 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, Barry Bonds became the 10th player in Giants history to have his number retired. One of the previous nine spent part of Saturday’s ceremony stumping for Bonds to get further recognition. 

Willie Mays was one of several to give a speech Saturday, and he used part of his time to urge voters to put Bonds in the Hall of Fame. Through six years on the ballot, Bonds has not gotten particularly close. 

“The Hall of Fame, when you get there, you see, man, how could I get there,” Mays said. “And I want him to have that honor (and) be something that’s happened to him … vote this guy in.”

Bonds avoided any big picture talk, preferring instead to give an emotional speech in which he thanked family members, including his late father, his coaches going back to college, and teammates and others who stood by his side during one of the best careers in MLB history. Bonds had to stop speaking a couple of times because he was overcome by emotion. At the end, he had a simple message. 

“Thank you San Francisco,” he said. “Thank you for making all my dreams come true. Love you.” 

Five of the nine previous Giants to have their numbers retired were on hand for the ceremony. Mays, Bonds’ godfather, was joined by Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal. Bonds was joined on the field by family members — including his mom, who was escorted onto the field by Brandon Crawford — and former teammates, including Kirk Rueter, Robb Nen and Bobby Bonilla. 

Bruce Bochy sat alongside two other former Bonds managers, Dusty Baker and Jim Leyland. Video messages were sent by Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Pudge Rodriguez, Steve Kerr, Steph Curry and Tom Brady, who was booed so loudly that you couldn’t hear his message. The Giants even brought Eric

Gagne back to discuss a legendary confrontation that ended with a Bonds homer to dead center. Gagne said he wanted to challenge the best to do it, and he got beat. 

Bonds’ number was retired 25 years after he joined the Giants as a free agent. Team president and CEO Larry Baer remembered pitching Bonds to come to the Giants as he considered offers from the Yankees and Braves. 

“Barry, clearly choked up, said, ‘If I could come home again, you don’t know what it would mean to me,’” Baer remembered. “Barry came home, and today we make it official, that this ballpark will be his home forever.”