John Wesley Covington
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 205 lb.
- High School Laurinburg High School, Hillside High School
- Debut April 19, 1956
- Final Game October 2, 1966
- Born March 27, 1932 in Laurinburg, NC USA
- Died July 4, 2011 in Edmonton, AB Canada
“You can’t afford to take press clippings seriously... You have to make the club on the field, not in the newspapers, and you have to do it on your own. I’m not going to try to be another Aaron or another anybody else.” - Wes Covington, 1956
Signed by the Boston Braves in 1952, Covington missed the 1954 season due to military service. He reached the bigs in 1956 with the Braves who were now calling Milwaukee. Billed as the "next Hank Aaron" by the press, he was a part of the Braves clubs that won the pennant in 1957 and 1958, winning the World Series in 1957. Impressively, while Covington appeared in less than 100 games each season in 1957 and 1958, he hit over 20 home runs each year, belting 21 with a .284/.339/.537 line in 96 games in '57, then following with an eye-popping .330/.380/.622 line with 24 homers in 90 games in '58. He was also 5th in the National League in triples in 1957, swatting 8. He shone with the glove in World Series play in the Braves triumph of '57. In Game 2, he robbed Bobby Shantz of extra bases with a backhand grab that saved two runs from Lew Burdette's ledger. In Game 5, he leapt over the wall to steal a home run from Gil McDougald, again saving Burdette's bacon.
Things went sideways starting in 1959. He played his most as a Brave but his batting line fell to .279/.329/.397 in 103 games. Playing 95 times in 1960, his average was solid but he failed to do much in the way of getting on base, batting .249/.288/.420 with 10 home runs. He staged a holdout prior to the 1961 season looking for some better amenities in his contract. The year ended up being quite the ride. He played 9 times for the Braves before being sold to the Chicago White Sox for $20,000. After 22 games in which his bat perked up (.288/.333/.508 with four homers in 59 at bats), he was included in a multi-player deal to the Kansas City Athletics. He got into 17 games there when the Philadelphia Phillies joined Wes-a-palooza, playing 57 times and batting .303/.355/.485. For the year, Wes batted .270/.329/.433 with 12 homers in 105 games.
With the Phils, Wes found a home, becoming one of the first African-American contributors on a team that had been loath to integration. He may have been limited due to Gene Mauch's platooning, something he found himself at odds with the skipper over, but he played 100 games each year from 1962 to 1965. The best of his Phillie seasons may have been 1963, in which he batted .303/.354/.521 with 17 home runs and 64 RBI in 119 games. His bat was quiet during the Philly fall from grace at the end of 1964 and he asked for his release after a contentious 1965. He finished his career in 1966 playing a few games with the Cubs and Dodgers. In fact, his last appearance came in the 1966 World Series with the Dodgers, striking out against Moe Drabowsky in Game 1. Per similarity scores, his closest match is Jerry Lynch, best known for his work as a pinch hitter.
After his playing career, Covington moved to Canada. He worked for nearly 20 years for the Edmonton Sun newspaper and then for the Edmonton Trappers baseball team. In 2003, he returned to Milwaukee for the first time in nearly 40 years. He died of cancer at 79.
- Andy Sturgill: "Wes Covington", in Mel Marmer and Bill Nowlin, eds.: The Year of Blue Snow: The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2013, pp. 79-83. ISBN 978-1-933599-51-9
- Andy Sturgill: "Wes Covington", in Gregory H. Wolf, ed.: Thar's Joy in Braveland: The 1957 Milwaukee Braves, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2014, pp. 54-58. ISBN 978-1933599717