RELATED: Athletes, notable figures react to death of San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey
"He was my first baseball hero." Scores of youngsters in the Bay Area and around the country felt the same way about the Giants Hall of Fame first baseman.
On Thursday, several thousand fans filled the seats at AT&T Park to say goodbye to Willie McCovey. One of them was slugger Barry Bonds.
WATCH: Giants celebrate Willie McCovey
"I idolized Willie Mays, but I was born left handed. My first glove was a first baseman's glove. So as much as I wanted to be like 'Say Hey,' I always had to stretch like 'Mac,'" Bonds said.
"Mac," "Big Mac," "Stretch" - all nicknames for the 6 foot 4 left hander who could pull a smoking fastball down the right field line.
One fan remembers his first Giants game when he went four-for-four. "From day one, he became everyone I know's favorite player."
RELATED: Fans pay tribute to San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey
And the transplant from Mobile, Alabama adopted the Bay Area as his home. "He came to be known as just a fixture in our community, and so the 20 years he played for the Giants was just part of the story."
Teammate and Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry said McCovey was quiet, but meant what he said. "You know, he had a special pick-off play with me, with a man on first base. He would say 'Hey dummy, they're getting too big a lead,'" Perry remembered.
Flags at half staff at A-T-and-T Park at memorial for Giants great Willie McCovey. pic.twitter.com/gET8DkQmPh— Eric Thomas (@ericthomaskgo) November 8, 2018
Broadcaster and former Giants hurler Mike Krukow grew up a idolizing the Dodgers, but wanted to play like "Big Mac." "I mean, I didn't like him, but I wanted to be like him. I started hitting whiffle balls left-handed because I wanted to be like McCovey," he said.
McCovey never played at AT&T Park, but part of it will be associated with him forever. Right over the wall is McCovey Cove.
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All time great Willie Mays at memorial for his teammate and friend Willie McCovey at A-T-and-T Park. pic.twitter.com/6K4Jkm3X6S— Eric Thomas (@ericthomaskgo) November 8, 2018
Barry Bonds arrives at memorial for Willie McCovey. pic.twitter.com/4xrubaARPM— Eric Thomas (@ericthomaskgo) November 8, 2018
Giants legend Dusty Baker at A-T-and-T Park for remembrance of the late hall of gamer Willie McCovey. pic.twitter.com/7RgPk3GdCo— Eric Thomas (@ericthomaskgo) November 8, 2018