Two legacies became one Saturday as the Giants named outfielder Mike Yastrzemski as the winner of the “Willie Mac" Award, emblematic of the team’s most inspirational and competitive player.
Yastrzemski sustained a calf injury on Sept. 17 against Seattle that forced him to miss seven starts and interrupted his first full season in the Major Leagues. With a team-high 35 RBIs entering Saturday and an established reputation as a deft defender, he has demonstrated the diverse skill that his grandfather, Hall of Fame outfielder-first baseman Carl Yastrzemski, displayed during 23 seasons with the Boston Red Sox (1961-83).
Mike Yastrzemski also topped the league with four triples entering Saturday, matching Washington’s Trea Turner, and was tied for eighth with 14 doubles.
The elder Yastrzemski prompted the same adoration in Boston that Willie McCovey, for whom the award is named, did in the Bay Area during a Giants career that spanned four calendar decades. McCovey, who died two years ago at age 80, remains revered for his Hall of Fame-level slugging and his friendly demeanor.
Coincidentally, McCovey and Carl Yastrzemski earned Most Valuable Player honors in the All-Star Game in back-to-back years. McCovey homered twice in the NL’s 9-3 triumph in 1969. A season later, Yastrzemski became the third All-Star to lash four hits in a Midsummer Classic as the NL edged the AL in 12 innings, 5-4.
The Giants have immortalized McCovey by retiring his No. 44 jersey, capturing his powerful swing on a statue and dubbing the portion of San Francisco Bay situated beyond Oracle Park’s right-field barrier as McCovey Cove.
The Willie Mac Award also continues to endure. Pat Gallagher, the former Giants marketing director who launched the concept for the award, was briefly stunned upon learning that the award is 40 years old. Right fielder Jack Clark won the inaugural Willie Mac Award in 1980.
“I can’t believe it. Wow,” Gallagher said. “It’s kind of the most exclusive Giants club you could be in as a player.”
The winner of the award is selected in a vote that’s conducted among the Giants’ manager, players, coaches, athletic training staff and fans.