SAN FRANCISCO - Willie McCovey, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds gathered at AT&T Park in January to celebrate McCovey's 80th birthday. Nine months later, the Giants lost a member of their 500-home run club, and shortly after McCovey died, team president and CEO Larry Baer spoke to Mays.
"He felt like he lost a brother," Baer told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday. "Barry Bonds felt like he lost a mentor and a father figure. These were players that were iconic players in our sport and they don't come around often. You want them to live forever.
"These are players that really wrote part of the history of the sport, so it was very, very hard for all of us. But you know, I think when we absorb this, we'll realize the beauty, the beautiful person he was. We called him the gentle Giant."
McCovey died after a long battle with ongoing health issues. In a release announcing McCovey's death, the Giants said fans who wished to offer condolences may send letters to the ballpark, addressed to Forever 44. They also can email email@example.com.
The organization plans to hold a public celebration of McCovey's life at a later date.
"There's a reason the Willie Mac Award is for the most inspirational player, there's a reason we do the Willie Mac Stretch Drive where we raise money for kids," Baer said. "He loved kids. There's a reason that Willie was at every game. We'd love to do something where we can invite the fans and the public to pay homage to Willie. We're working on that right now."