President Obama pardons Willie McCovey

One day after the Chicago Cubs jokingly “pardoned” President Obama for his White Sox fandom, the outgoing president issued a real pardon to baseball Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.

McCovey was among the 273 commutations and pardons announced by Obama on Tuesday, as the president forgave  the San Francisco Giants legend’s 1995 conviction on tax evasion charges.

McCovey, along with Dodgers slugger Duke Snider, admitted to knowingly failing to report $70,000  earned by signing autographs and participating in memorabilia shows between 1988 and 1990. He was sentenced in 1996 to two years of probation and fined $5,000.

McCovey, who marked his 79th birthday on Jan. 10, slugged 521 home runs over a 22-year career that began in 1959, the Giants’ second year in San Francisco. He spent 18 of those seasons with the Giants, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. He has had a series of health issues in recent years related to orthopedic procedures, and was hospitalized in 2014 to treat a serious infection.

Willie McCovey’s record is clean after receiving a pardon from President Obama on Tuesday. Photograph: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey pardoned by Obama

Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey has been pardoned by Barack Obama for a 21-year-old guilty plea to tax fraud.

The San Francisco Giants legend was one of 273 individuals granted a second chance by the outgoing president on Tuesday, when Obama issued 209 grants of commutation and 64 pardons.

“I want to express my sincere gratitude to President Obama not only for this kind gesture on my behalf, but also for his tireless service to all Americans,” McCovey, 79, said in a statement issued through the Giants. “He will be deeply missed and I wish him all the best in the future.”

McCovey pleaded guilty to income tax-fraud conspiracy in 1995, alongside fellow baseball star Duke Snider, admitting he failed to report $70,000 in fees received from memorabilia and autograph shows between 1988 and 1990.

The plea carried a sentence of up to seven months in jail. Both McCovey and Snider, who died in 2011, were given two years’ probation and a $5,000 fine in 1996.

The left-handed McCovey, who played 19 of his 22 major league seasons with the Giants, was one of the most intimidating power hitters of his era. He retired in 1980 with 521 career home runs, which tied him for eighth all-time with Ted Williams at the time. His 18 grand slams remains a National League record.

The Alabama native, who was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1986, still works with the Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.

He is the namesake of McCovey Cove, the unofficial name of the area in San Francisco Bay right beyond the right field wall of AT&T Park, where fans who hope to retrieve a home run ball famously congregate in boats and kayaks on game days at the Giants’ home stadium.

Obama also commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the US army whistleblower who has been imprisoned for six years for leaking state secrets.


Giants Hall of Fame slugger Willie McCovey issued pardon by President Obama

San Francisco Giants Baseball Hall of Famer Willie McCovey was granted a pardon by President Obama on a decades-old tax evasion charge, one of 64 pardons issued by the outgoing commander-in-chief on Tuesday.

“I want to express my sincere gratitude to President Obama not only for this kind gesture on my behalf, but also for his tireless service to all Americans,” McCovey, who was known as "Stretch" during his career, said in a statement issued through the Giants. “He will be deeply missed and I wish him all the best in the future.”

The 79-year-old former slugger was sentenced in June 1996 – along with fellow Hall of Famer Duke Snider – to two years of probation and a $5,000 fine stemming from undeclared income received from baseball memorabilia shows. Snider died in 2011.

McCovey admitted at the time he failed to report $41,800 in income in 1989, when he made $87,000, and $69,800 in income received between 1988 and 1990.

“It's one of those things that was overlooked at the time and I do accept responsibility for it,” McCovey then told U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman in Brooklyn. “The only thing I'd like to say is while I've always tried to do the right things, I have never willingly tried to cheat the government.”

Now a senior adviser with the Giants, McCovey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986 after hitting .270 with a .374 on-base percentage and 521 home runs. He spent 19 of his 22 seasons with the Giants, but also played for the Oakland Athletics and the San Diego Padres.

A six-time All-Star, McCovey won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1959, batting .354 with 13 home runs in 52 games. He took home the NL MVP award in 1969, leading the league with 45 home runs and 126 RBIs and leading all of baseball with a .453 on-base percentage and .656 slugging percentage. McCovey was also the All-Star Game MVP in 1969.

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