In August 1959, two future Hall of Famers – Willie McCovey and Billy Williams – were breaking into the National League. McCovey (age 21) made his debut for the Giants on July 30 and Williams (also 21) for the Cubs on August 6. (In between those dates, Jim Kaat and Zoilo Versalles made their first appearances in the big leagues for the Washington Senators, who were in the midst of an 18 game losing streak; both would play huge roles for the pennant winning Minnesota Twins six years later).
McCovey was an instant sensation, batting .354 with 13 home runs in just 192 at-bats. He forced one future Hall of Famer, Orlando Cepeda, to move from first-base to the outfield and another, Willie Mays, to relinquish the number three spot in the batting order (Mays batted second during much of August).
Williams was a different story. Starting in four consecutive games in place of fan favorite Walt “Moose” Moryn, he went just 2-16. After that, he played only intermittently, ending the year with a .152 average and no home runs. Williams then spent all of 1960 in the minors but returned to the Cubs in 1961 and was named NL Rookie of the Year. That year, he outhit McCovey,
McCovey’s 1959 feats seemed to give the Giants the upper hand in one of the great pennant races of all time (older fans will remember what pennant races were). When “Stretch” debuted on July 30, San Francisco held a half game lead over Los Angeles and Milwaukee. By mid-August they were 2.5 games up on the Dodges and 4 up on the Braves. In late September, they were still ahead of both clubs by 2 games with only eight to play. However, the Dodges and Braves would both overtake them and then settle things in a play-off.
I’ll probably have more to recount about this next month
UPDATE: Williams played until 1976; McCovery until 1980. Both were members of the 1976 Oakland As.
WIlliams batted .290, with 426 home runs and 1475 RBIs. He slugged .492 with an on-base percentage of .361.
McCovery batted .270, with 521 home runs and 1555 RBIs. He slugged .521 with an on-base percentage of .374.
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