McCovey went to Sandersville in the Class-D Georgia State League, where he hit .305 and from there, in 1956, to Danville in the Carolina League (.310). Jumped to the Double-A Texas League in 1957, McCovey hit .281 but injured a knee sliding home. Last year, at Phoenix, he hit .319, drove in 89 runs and had 14 homers. An off-season operation on the knee left him overweight and out of shape this spring at the Giant camp in Phoenix and, since the San Francisco ball club was already well-populated with good first basemen like Cepeda and Bill White, he was sent down again. But when the Giants hit their slump, it was impossible to ignore him.
"Every night he was hot," says Jose Pagan, who was called up from Phoenix along with McCovey. "Every night he go two for four, three for four. He hit them over the light towers. You couldn't get him out."
So far, major league pitching has been a source of great pleasure to Big Willie, even the pitching of men like Roberts and Lew Burdette and Harvey Haddix and Bob Buhl.
"I just swing," he says, his head bowed as he stares at the floor.
How does pitching up here compare with that in the Coast League?
"Up here, I have to say they're around the plate a little more."
"He hit everything I threw," said Roberts.
"You ask me what I threw to him," said Buhl. "Whatever the hell it was, it was the wrong thing."
"He hits curves, sliders and fast balls," said Burdette.
"When I'm hittin' it just don't too much matter," said Willie.