Willie McGee

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Willie Dean McGee

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Biographical Information[edit]

Willie McGee was the National League MVP in 1985, when he won the batting title with a .353 average. He was a four-time All-Star, representing the St. Louis Cardinals in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1988. He won three Gold Glove awards in 1983, 1985 and 1986.

In addition to the 1985 title, Willie also won the 1990 National League batting title in a way that drew a lot of attention. He was traded after playing 125 games with the Cardinals and posting a .335 average. With the pennant-winning Oakland Athletics for the remainder of the season, he hit .274 to end with an overall batting average of .324. Since his .335 average in the 1990 National League was the highest in that league, he won the title despite having only the 6th-best batting average in the major leagues and finishing the season with a lower overall batting average than the player who he beat for the batting title, Eddie Murray, who hit .330 in the National League. He became the only player in history to win a batting title in one league after being traded to the other.

St. Louis Cardinals player Willie McGee tags second base during a game at Busch Stadium

The press liked to note that McGee was a shy, ordinary-type guy who found himself a star.

Willie was born in San Francisco, CA and attended high school in Richmond, CA. Drafted originally by the New York Yankees, he eventually played parts of 10 seasons in the minors, although only five were anything close to complete seasons. In 1981 with the Nashville Sounds, he hit .322 with 7 home runs as a teammate of the young Don Mattingly, who hit .316 with 7 home runs. Mattingly at age 20 was two years younger than McGee. He was then traded to the Cardinals in return for pitcher Bob Sykes after the season. Sykes turned out to be injured and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was furious that such a talented young player as McGee had gone away essentially for nothing. He threatened to take action to cancel the trade and eventually the Cards quieted him by sending two prospects, Stan Javier and Bobby Meacham, to the Yankees to even things up.

He was a regular in his first major league season in 1982, appearing in 123 games for the Cardinals who won the 1982 World Series. While most of his career was with the Cardinals, he also spent four seasons playing for his home-town team, the San Francisco Giants, for whom he twice hit .300.

There is no player, according to the similarity scores method, who has a score higher than 884 with regard to McGee, showing that Willie was pretty unique. The most similar player, Hal Chase, was a totally different personality who played in a totally different era. A more relevant comparison who ranks as the third-most similar player is Ken Griffey, Sr., who was a contemporary of Willie. Oddly, while Griffey is #3 on Willie's list of most similar players, Willie is not in the top ten of Griffey's most similar players, all of whom score over 890.

McGee was appointed a coach with the Cardinals for the 2018 season. In 2020, he decided to sit out the end of the season due to the Coronavirus pandemic, being replaced by Roberto Espinoza. He then returned to the Cardinals in 2021.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 1982 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • NL MVP (1985)
  • 4-time NL All-Star (1983, 1985, 1987 & 1988)
  • 3-time Gold Glove Winner (1983, 1985 & 1986)
  • NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1985)
  • 2-time NL Batting Average Leader (1985 & 1990)
  • NL Hits Leader (1985)
  • NL Singles Leader (1985)
  • NL Triples Leader (1985)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1987)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1985)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1985)
  • Won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982

1984 1985 1986
Ryne Sandberg Willie McGee Mike Schmidt

Further Reading[edit]

  • Peter Gammons: "Boggs & McGee: Two Ways to Win a Batting Crown", in Zander Hollander, ed.: The Complete Handbook of Baseball: 1986 Season, Signet Books, New American Library, New York, NY, 1986, pp. 16-23. ISBN 0-451-14177-6

Related Sites[edit]