Willie McCovey, San Francisco Giants Legend, Dies at 80

San Francisco Giants legend and Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey has died at the age of 80.

McCovey died "peacefully" after battling "ongoing health issues" on Wednesday at Stanford Hospital, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Joe Morgan, McCovey's fellow Hall of Famer and close friend, was at his bedside during his final hours. Morgan marked the time of death at 4 minutes past 4 in the afternoon.

McCovery had reportedly battled a number of health issues in recent years, including a serious infection four years ago that nearly took his life. He was hospitalized late last week after developing another infection.

"San Francisco and the entire baseball community lost a true gentleman and legend, and our collective hearts are broken," Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said in a statement, according to ESPN. "Willie was a beloved figure throughout his playing days and in retirement. He will be deeply missed by the many people he touched."

"For more than six decades, he gave his heart and soul to the Giants -- 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," Baer's statement concluded.

Following news of his death, The Giants paid tribute to the baseball legend by flying the flags at AT&T Park at half-staff and his number up in lights. Fans also paid tribute by lining a statue of McCovey with flowers and candles during a vigil for him that same night, ABC 7 News reports.

"He really is Giants royalty. You see the statue out behind the cove, you hear about the Willie Mac Award," Baer said at the vigil. "You think of him as a gentle giant. He was just big and imposing and he was feared as a hitter and soft and cuddly and warm as a person."

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After making his major league debut in 1959, going 4-for-4 in his first game, he was named Rookie of the Year. He was traded from the Giants to the San Diego Padres in 1973 and later temporarily played for the Oakland Athletics before returning to San Francisco for his final seasons.

Nicknamed "Stretch" for his 6-foot-4 stature, McCovey retired in 1980. His 22-year career boasts multiple accolades, including six-time MLB All-Star, a three-time National League home-run leader, and two-time National League RBI leader.