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November 21, 2018

Madden: Remembering Willie McCovey and the time Tom Seaver figured out how to strike out the man known as ‘Stretch’

November 3, 2018

Baseball lost one of its finest citizens last Wednesday, when the gentle Giant Hall of Famer Willie “Stretch” McCovey, he of the 521 career homers, 18 grand slams and 1,555 RBI died at 80 in San Francisco.

In 1969, McCovey beat out Tom Seaver for the NL MVP award, but years later Seaver regaled in telling people how the most satisfying moment of his career was the sweet revenge he got striking out McCovey with the bases loaded and two outs in a game – on a changeup.

“It’s what I called my WCS – worst case scenario – I got McCovey up there, two outs, bases loaded and I say to myself, ‘Okay Big Boy, let’s see how good you are. You can’t walk him, and he and everyone else is expecting you’re gonna throw him a fastball because you’re f-ing Tom Seaver!’ I’m looking over at first base, even though everyone knows the runner isn’t going anywhere and I’m refusing to look at McCovey because I wanted him to get over-anxious. And then I threw him this little bird seed and down he went!”

Afterward, McCovey yelled: “You can’t throw that pitch! You don’t have a changeup!’ to which Seaver hollered back: “I do now!”

Every year on induction weekend at Cooperstown, Seaver never let McCovey forget, always greeting him with: ‘How’s that changeup, Stretch?’

For the record, McCovey hit .260 lifetime against Seaver (20-for-77) with 6 HR, 16 RBI, 15 walks (6 intentional) and 18 strikeouts (including at least one with the bases loaded).

Willie McCovey (Eric Risberg / AP)

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