San Francisco Giants: Willie McCovey Receives Presidential Pardon

San Francisco Giants icon Willie McCovey received a presidential pardon on Tuesday for his 1995 tax evasion conviction.

President Barack Obama’s final week in the nation’s highest office has taken on something of a baseball theme. He honored the World Series champion Chicago Cubs at the White House on Monday, recognizing the long-awaited title won by the team from his native Chicago (and rivals of his beloved White Sox).

Yesterday, the president approved 273 pardons or sentence commutations. Among those receiving a pardon was Baseball Hall of Famer and San Francisco Giants great Willie McCovey.

Some younger fans might be surprised to see McCovey’s name on a list of presidential pardons. However, he was convicted on tax evasion charges back in 1995. The baseball legend pleaded guilty along with fellow Hall of Fame slugger Duke Snider for failing to report earnings from autograph sessions and memorabilia shows. He received a $5,000 fine and two years’ probation.

While the issue had been settled well in the past, the 79-year-old McCovey was appreciative toward the outgoing president for the act of goodwill. In a statement released through the Giants, he said:

“I want to express my sincere gratitude to President Obama not only for this kind gesture on my behalf, but also for his tireless service to all Americans. He will be deeply missed and I wish him all the best in the future.”

During a career spanning 22 seasons, 19 of which were spent with the Giants, McCovey developed into one of the game’s most productive power hitters. He got off to a roaring start in 1959 by winning the Rookie of the Year award despite playing only 52 games. Looking at McCovey’s numbers over that short span, it’s not hard to see why. He posted a .354/.429/.656 slash line while belting 13 homers and driving in 38 runs in 219 plate appearances.

McCovey appeared in six All-Star Games and earned the National League MVP award in 1969 after slashing .320/.453/.656 with 45 home runs and 126 RBI. Primarily a first baseman in his playing days, McCovey finished with 521 homers (20th all-time, eighth among left-handed hitters) and 1,555 RBI (44th).

McCovey was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986, capturing 81.4 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility. He remains a popular and revered figure within the Giants franchise and fan community, currently serving as a senior advisor in the organization. And, of course, the arm of the San Francisco Bay bordering AT&T Park is affectionately known as “McCovey’s Cove” in his honor.

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