Giant Marc Hill Honors Willie McCovey

Same ‘graph today!

What makes Willie McCovey a real Hall of Famer?

Forget the stats. Beyond home runs, he left a lasting impression on the game. Just ask his teammates.

When I wrote to Marc Hill, I remembered McCovey devising a nickname for the newcomer.

Essentially, “Big Mac” surveyed the young catcher. He stated that he had heard of Boot Hill, Bunker Hill, but not Marc Hill. The veteran first sacker combined the best of both worlds. Thus, the legend of Marc “Booter” Hill was born.

I hoped Hill might have more insight about his legendary teammate. “Booter” didn’t disappoint.

“Willie McCovey: Great leader. Gentle Giant.

Someone to look up to. Help me take one game at a time.

How to forget the day before if it was a bad game.

Treat people with respect.”

Tomorrow: Hill recalls three notable homers, along with the mixed blessing of Candlestick Park.

Giant Mike Sadek Homered for Dad

Mike Sadek may have been as rare as an Elvis sighting in San Francisco box scores from 1973-81. However, his memories would put him on my list of all-star Giant storytellers.

First, I wanted to know if this Minnesota native was immune to cold-and-windy Candlestick Park. I’m still shivering over memories of my one blustery trip there. How did he feel?

“Cold and windy, but better than the minor leagues!”

The back-up catcher got a bonus in his 1973 rookie season. He became batterymate for future Hall of Famer Juan Marichal.

“Yes, it was a thrill to catch him. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he had great control.”

I expected Sadek to tell what kind of pitch he clouted for his first major league home run on June 19, 1977, versus Grant Jackson. (Thanks for the history, Maybe, he’d remember the final score. Instead, I received a classic tale.

“It took a few years for me to hit one and after I circled the bases and got to the dugout — there was one of my idols (since I was in junior high school) Willie McCovey — laying flat on the bench. Two guys were fanning him with towels.

He lifted his head and said, ‘I thought I saw Sheik (me) hit a home run!’

The biggest thrills for me was just getting there after six-plus years in the minor leagues — introducing my dad around (my biggest fan — my first-hit ball and my first career HR ball are buried with him.”

Tomorrow: learn about Sadek’s holiest of autographs.

Recalling Padre Bob Barton’s Big Blast Of 1971 (Or, The Win That Got Away)

Grand Salami Time!

Bob Barton may have been one of baseball’s most chatty catchers.

Judging from his awesome letter, the receptive receiver seems capable of engaging any hitter in conversation. I think pitchers would have loved facing distracted batsmen.

Barton noted that some umpires were happy to converse, too. He noted one in particular, writing:

“Had a lot of conversations with Doug Harvey. He was just elected to the Hall of Fame. Great umpire. Good guy. We became friends.”

I discovered that Barton belted a 1971 grand slam. That was only the beginning to an epic story. Barton continued:

“I hit the grand slam against my old teammates, the Giants, in Candlestick Park in the top of the ninth with two outs to put us in front, 9-5, as the score was obviously tied. In the bottom of the ninth, the Giants scored five runs to beat us, 10-9 (I was with the Padres).

“We got 2 guys out in that bottom of the ninth before a dear friend of mine, Dick Dietz, hit a 3-run, 2-out double to clear the bases and drive in the 8th, 9th and 10th runs to beat us. The two hitters we got out before Dick hit the double were a couple of pretty good hitters — their names — Willie Mays and Willie McCovey!

“True Story! Enjoy!”

Barton noted his career potential:

“Nine passed balls in eight years in the M.L. with a throwing-out potential base stealers of 43%. Might be an all-time best of the two together. Proud of that.

“But I got caught behind two all-star catchers, Tom Haller in S.F. and [Johnny] Bench in Cincinnati. Frustrating not getting to play more. Made five all-star teams on my way to the M.L. in the minors.”

Old catchers are sponges. They soak up all the game’s details. The Bob Bartons of baseball history have so much to share. I hope someone keeps asking.

(If you hadn’t guessed, did it again. Barton’s big day brought to life. Thanks, guys!)

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