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11 months ago

Baseball Legend Willie McCovey Shares Fond Memories of Sweet Home Alabama

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson (left) with McCovey (seated) and Jake Peavey (Facebook)

Baseball legend Willie McCovey, now 79, enjoyed a sterling major league career as a first baseman and home run slugger for the San Francisco Giants that spanned 21 years—from 1959 to 1980. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame only six years after retirement, and in a recent interview with Marc Myers of the Wall Street Journal, McCovey shared fond memories of his childhood in Alabama, despite the challenging aspects of its painful past.

McCovey grew up in Mobile in the 1940s and recalled how painful it is to reflect back on a white man who was only in his 20s coming into their home and calling his father  “boy.”

“That was hard to take,” McCovey told Myers.

McCovey’s dreams were not suppressed by the cultural norms of the past, however, and his Alabama childhood memories are far from all bad. He fondly reminisced of his close-knit neighborhood, friends with whom he played ball, and a loving father and mother, who taught him right from wrong.

“My father, Frank, worked hard fixing tracks for the GM&O Railroad. He wasn’t a large man, but he was strong—and very quiet. When he spoke, we listened. At home, he never raised his voice. But if he had to talk to you about right and wrong, he’d sit you down and you wouldn’t forget it. My mother, Esther, was a loving woman and an incredible, understanding cook. I hated okra, so she’d cook a separate dish for me, or she’d pick out the okra pieces. She wasn’t an “eat it or else” mom.

McCovey also talked about his boyhood chores, which included feeding the family’s chickens.

It was in this loving home that McCovey also fell in love with the game that changed his life.

“At night, we’d gather around the radio to listen to a guy who recreated the play- by-play of major league baseball games by reading the ticker. With sound effects, he made it seem real. My friends and I played sports in the streets or empty fields. We played softball in a large local playground. Jesse Thomas was the director. I pitched and was a better pitcher than a first baseman. But I could hit the ball hard.”

Indeed he could. McCovey would go on to blast 521 homes over the course of his career, becoming one of the most productive power hitters of his era.

In addition to the challenges of a segregated south, the McCovey’s financial struggles also created hardships for the family. In 1954, when he was a high school junior, he was forced to drop out of school to help support his family.

In addition to my paper route, I tried working as a bus boy in a whites-only restaurant, but I quit after a week. All the things that make you cringe was normal talk then. You took it or you walked away. I soon found work at a chicken place. I was responsible for washing the chicken parts before they were put out for people to buy.

The struggles would not interrupt McCovey’s destiny, however. That same December, he boarded a train to Los Angeles to visit his older brother, Wyatt.  Jessie was then a  “bird-dog…who spotted baseball talent for a San Francisco Giants scout named Alex Pompez. He said he told Alex about me. Alex wanted me to report to Florida where the Giants were trying out players.” From there, McCovey told Myers how his journey to the majors began.

From there, McCovey told Myers how his journey to the majors began.

All of the black players slept at one end of an old army barracks. On my first day, I did lousy. Alex came down and asked why I didn’t hit. I said that I was nervous. Alex said, “Well, they see something in you and they’re giving you a chance.” The next day I hit two home runs. The Giants signed me to their minor league system. In July 1959, I had just finished playing a double header in Phoenix for the Pacific Coast League when the general manger told me the Giants were calling me up to the big club. I had to be in San Francisco the next day for a game. I flew up on the first flight out. Horace Stoneham, who owned the Giants, sent his driver to pick me up. I got to the ballpark just in time to get dressed. Bill Rigney the manager, told me I was batting third, between Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda. My first time at bat I hit a triple. Then I hit a single, another triple and a single. That day I made the team. They called me “Stretch” because I was 6-foot-4.

Willie McCovey never returned to Alabama to live. Today he resides in a home he built in the Bay Area in the 1970’s. “I have a good view of Mount Diablo and Redwood City across San Francisco Bay,” he told the Journal.

“Because of an old baseball knee injury, I spend most of my time in the bedroom watching the Baseball Channel on TV when I’m not at Giants home games,” he said.

Sadly, his father never saw him play for the Giants, but his mother did.

“She didn’t know much about the game. But after, she said, ‘People clapped for you, so you must be doing something good.'” Indeed he was! Alabama’s Willie McCovey will forever remain one of baseball’s all time greatest, thanks in no small part to his Mobile community and the loving home Frank and Esther McCovey worked so hard to provide.

5 hours ago

Backed by Alfa, Rick Pate rolls to victory in Alabama ag commissioner race

Lowndesboro Mayor Rick Pate on Tuesday survived late-campaign attack ads dredging up a three-decade-old divorce to claim the Republican nomination for Alabama commissioner of agriculture and industries.

Pate defeated state Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) with about 57 percent of the vote. With no Democrat on the ballot in November, Pate is all but assured of succeeding Republican incumbent John McMillan, who is term-limited.

“We thought we would win,” Pate told AL.com. “We had the right message. I am a farmer and a businessman. I thought that is what people would want.”

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Dial made it to the runoff after running light-hearted ads featuring a catchy jingle proclaiming, “It’s Dial time.” Trailing by a significant margin, however, Dial went negative this month.

Ads by Dial’s campaign referenced a 1986 divorce petition filed by Pate’s ex-wife, Carolyn, that accused Pate of domestic violence.

Pate hotly disputed the allegation.

“I denied that then and I deny that now,” he told the Decatur Daily earlier this month.

Pate told the paper that he and his ex-wife now exchange Christmas cards and that she wrote a note in May explaining that she and her ex-husband hurled hurtful words at one another at the end of what had been a good marriage.

Pate had the backing of powerful agriculture and business interests, including the Alabama Farmers Federation, or Alfa. The group’s political action committee donated nearly $100,000 in cash and in-kind donations. That was nearly a fifth of Pate’s total.

Pate also racked up endorsements from the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Forestry Association, the Associated General Contractors of Alabama and the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, among others.

The Lowndesboro mayor, who owns a cattle ranch and runs a landscaping company, pledged to use the department to help farmers improve productivity.

Pate also promised to attack “over-regulation,” taxes and barriers to investment. He pointed out on his campaign website that some have estimated that food production will have to double by 2050 to meet worldwide demand.

It will take “visionary leaders who understand that we have to work smarter, not just harder, to achieve these goals,” according to the website.

Pate’s victory was broad. He won 59 counties — including Choctaw by a single vote — compared to just seven that went to Dial, who even lost his home base in Clay County.

The loss means Dial, come next year, will be out of elective office for the first time in 44 years.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

 

5 hours ago

Ainsworth defeats Cavanaugh in Lt. Gov runoff election

After a long and hotly contested race, the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor in Alabama has been decided. Will Ainsworth defeated Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Cavanaugh in Tuesday night’s runoff election.

With 99 percent reporting, Ainsworth defeated Cavanaugh with a little more than ten thousand votes. Ainsworth received 51 percent of the vote, leaving Cavanaugh with 49 percent.

Ainsworth issued a tweet thanking those who supported and voted for him saying, “This is your victory as much as ours.”

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Ainsworth also used the hashtag #ANewDayForAlabama in his first tweet since becoming the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor of Alabama.

Ainsworth mentioned his opponent as he spoke after the election results were revealed and said that he looked forward to working with her in the future.

Cavanaugh conceded around 9:30 p.m., saying,”He ran a strong race — Will Ainsworth — and he now, I hope, will go on to be our next lieutenant governor here in the state of Alabama.”

Ainsworth will now square off with Democrat Will Boyd in November.

6 hours ago

Steve Marshall beats Troy King in heated attorney general runoff

Alabama Republicans have chosen their candidate for attorney general: incumbent Steve Marshall.

Marshall beat his Republican competitor former attorney general Troy King in Tuesday’s primary election runoff, winning 62 percent of the vote as of 9:30 p.m., with 92 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

A last-minute endorsement by close Trump ally Roger Stone proved unable to deliver King a victory in what became at times both a heartbreaking and heated campaign.

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Marshall and King both temporarily suspended their campaigns in late June, following the tragic death of Marshall’s wife, Bridgette.

In the race’s final weeks, King argued that Marshall’s acceptance of campaign contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association was an infraction of Alabama’s campaign finance laws. He filed a lawsuit in Montgomery Circuit Court against Marshall last week, but a judge dismissed the case.

Marshall faces Democrat Joseph Siegelman in November’s general election.

11 hours ago

Live blog: Alabama votes — Runoff Returns

The state of Alabama (well, likely an “extraordinarily low” percentage) is voting Tuesday, July 14.

The lieutenant governor race pits Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh against Will Ainsworth in the runoff, while incumbent AG Steve Marshall squares off with former AG Troy King for attorney general. Also on today’s ballot, Martha Roby faces Bobby Bright for House District 2 and the race for commissioner of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries between Gerald Dial and Rick Pate.

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Update 9:40:
It’s no longer Dial time

Update 9:22:

Update 9:08:
Still a tight one for Cavanaugh and Ainsworth

Update 9:05:
A touching tribute

Update 9:01:

Down goes the King

Update 8:36:

AP calls House District 2 for Roby. She will face Tabitha Isner in November

Update 8:22:

NY Times has Roby 19,651 (67.2%) and Bright 9,599 (32.8%)

Update 8:15:

Update 7:48:

Marshall party enjoying the MLB All-Star Game

Update 7:40:

Update 7:25:

Per Montgomery Advertiser:
Lt. Gov race is a tight one.
Ainsworth: 105
Cavanaugh: 104

AG race also close early on.
Marshall: 125
King: 93

AG Commissioner close early.
Pate: 108
Dial: 96

NY Times shows big lead early for Roby in House District 2:
Roby: 261
Bright: 101

Update 7:00:

Polls are closed. Now we wait as results come in.

Update 6:50 p.m.:

Listen Live: Yellowhammer’s Jeff Poor and Dale Jackson on with Mobile FM Talk 106.5’s Sean Sullivan 8-10 p.m. at fmtalk1065.com.

Preview stories:

Five things to watch for on Runoff Election Night
The anatomy of races for attorney general and House District 2: What a win might mean
Here are the Alabama candidates who won the money race ahead of runoff

13 hours ago

Republicans don’t have to oppose Trump because he refuses to admit Russia meddled and wanted him to win

Russia meddled in the 2016 election and President Trump’s Director of National Intelligence acknowledges it. Russia wanted Trump to win, Russian President Vladimir Putin even admitted it. This does not mean there was collusion, it does not mean the election was stolen, and it doesn’t mean you have to support Hillary Clinton in 2020 or Democrats in 2018. It also doesn’t mean I, nor anyone else, has to second guess our reasoning for voting for Trump in 2016.

My reasoning was the open Supreme Court seat that would become Neal Gorsuch’s and the one that will become Brett Kavanaugh’s. A good friend of mine messaged me last night taunting me about Trump’s performance at the Trump/Putin press conference:

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You know what, it was.

But the game here is quite simple: Putin wanted Trump over Hillary, therefore you shouldn’t have.

The problem with that is Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are actually to blame for all the problems that are being brought to bear today, and Trump fails to acknowledge that.

Take this by former Congressman Mike Rogers (not Alabama’s) Tweet as a guide:

Let’s check the timeline…

— Waged continuous & increasingly aggressive cyber attacks against us – 2015(?)-present
— Interfered in our 2016 elections – 2015-2016
— Annexed Crimea – 2014
— Shot down a civilian airliner – 2014
— Supports Assad in Syria – 2013
— Invaded our ally Georgia – 2008
— Murdered opponents in London – 2018

A grand total of one of those events started during Trump’s term.

More interestingly, the media, Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continued to act as if Russia was an ally — or at best a nuisance.

Clinton offered a reset button:

Obama asked for space so he could win an election:

How is it that Trump’s failure to call out Russia’s acts before he was president is ushering in a more powerful Russian Federation, but years of straight-up weakness should have been rewarded with a third-term for team Obama? It makes no sense.

Now, I have been clear, President Trump should acknowledge Russian-meddling, but that meddling does not de-legitimize his win. He needs to acknowledge this, but so do his opponents.

There is more to the world than our relationship with Russia. The economy matters, the Supreme Court matters, controlling our borders matters, and no one can tell you that your choice in 2016 was wrong because Obama failed to do his job.