Willie McCovey racked up numerous awards and mementos during his 22-year Hall of Fame career. And he kept them all.
Unless someone asked for a specific item, the six-time all-star kept everything — from his 1969 National League MVP Award to his Hall of Fame plaque to his 2012 and 2014 World Series Championship rings. From trophies and plaques to bats, balls, caps and jerseys, McCovey amassed a large collection of historic artifacts from his illustrious career.
“He never threw anything away — even used nails,” his wife Estela said with a laugh.
Now McCovey’s vast memorabilia collection is available during Heritage Auctions’ Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction on Aug. 21-22. The Willie McCovey Collection, which features 212 lots, is the centerpiece of the auction, which includes 1,460 total items.
Along with his MVP Award, Hall of Fame plaque and World Series rings, the McCovey Collection also features: a 14-karat gold career achievements ring his teammates presented to him upon his retirement in 1980; a first baseman’s glove he used from 1975-80; a regal “Babe Ruth Crown” he received in 1982; a ball signed by McCovey and fellow Hall of Famers; and numerous signed bats and balls and game-worn and game-used artifacts. It even includes President Obama’s hand-written letter and signed pardon following McCovey’ conviction for tax evasion.
McCovey, who hit 521 career home runs, had his famous No. 44 jersey retired by the San Francisco Giants in 1980 and is honored with a statue at the ballpark near “McCovey Cove.” The team also presents an annual Willie Mac Award to the team’s “most inspirational player.”
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Heritage acquired the collection from Estela McCovey, who had a hard time parting with the mementos from her husband’s life and career.
“It’s hard for me to part with these things, but the memories are more important to me,” an emotional Estela told Heritage officials. “It took a while for me to organize everything, but thank God, I loved doing it. This is for the fans. They have been so good to me. They write me, tell me stories about him. I know he was very much loved.”
After McCovey passed away in October 2018, Estela spent the next three years making an inventory of her husband’s collection before deciding to turn it over to Heritage, which had it on display at the National Sports Collectors Convention.
“She was still really emotional about it, but she spent a lot of time going through everything to itemize it and get a full inventory of what was there, which was very helpful,” said Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “We are proud that she chose Heritage Auctions to represent the sale of Willie’s collection.”
Estela McCovey wanted to make sure the collection went to fans and collectors who loved and respected her husband and will carry on his legacy.
“They had been together for a long time and he was a big part of her life so it was pretty emotional for her letting this stuff go,” Ivy said. “But she understands this collection is going to people who were fans of his and love his career and love him, and they are going to treat this material well and with respect.”
“I would keep everything if I could,” Estela said. “But it’s time to share these things with everyone who loves him as much as I do.”