McCovey, the Hall of Fame first baseman who hit 521 home runs during a 22-year Major League career, had been hospitalized for nearly a month with an infection that struck his lower body. McCovey's illness prevented him from attending the Sept. 26 ceremony for the Willie Mac Award, which is named in his honor and given each year to the Giants' most inspirational player. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner was this year's recipient.
Dave Dravecky, who joined fellow ex-Giants heroes Kevin Mitchell and Jeffrey Leonard in throwing ceremonial first pitches before the St. Louis-San Francisco showdown, articulated the emotion that the hugely popular McCovey prompts among fans, former teammates and anybody who remotely cares about the ballclub.
"You're so concerned for this individual that you love and respect and have so much admiration for," Dravecky said. "He means so much to this organization and this city. Knowing that he's here today puts a smile in my heart, man, as well as on my face."
McCovey, who typically attends almost every Giants home game and sits in a private box, was not shown on the video board. But with word spreading throughout AT&T Park that the 76-year-old was on the premises, he issued the following statement:
"It feels great be back at AT&T Park for today's NLCS game. I have been following every pitch of this postseason and am excited to be here with the fans to welcome the team back from St. Louis. I also want [to] thank everyone for the outpouring of well wishes and support during my recovery. Your notes, cards and messages have been the best medicine anyone could ask for."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.