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Willie McCovey debuted 59 years ago

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He had a tremendous impact from his very first inning.

Texas Rangers v San Francisco Giants, Game 2 Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Willie McCovey, this site’s namesake, made his major league debut on this date 59 years ago. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award having played only 52 games (and in a 154-game season). He also got some MVP votes.

His debut came against the Phillies at Seals Stadium and he faced off against an eventual Hall of Famer, Robin Roberts, going 4-for-4 with two triples. He hit third, behind 28-year old Willie Mays, which is probably why the Giants were so successful with him: they hit their best player 2nd. Truly, the Giants were ahead of their time.

Because McCovey debuted after the Giants came west, he’s regarded differently here than Willie Mays. He was The City’s first hero. Personally, I was born after his entire career, so I don’t have any connection to his career or what he meant to the team. Only by listening to him give interviews like this one about Jackie Robinson or by checking out his glorious Baseball Reference page.

And then there’s this interview with Marty Lurie that talks all about his debut.

Of course, Grant has a much closer connection to McCovey, which he chronicles here:

It’s hard to imagine a rookie coming up and having such an impact over the final 52 games of the season that he radically alters the structure of the sport. Willie McCovey debuted as an all-time great player.