Willie McGee will always be one of my favorites. Just a quite, humble, unassuming regular guy who happened to win two batting titles, three Gold Gloves and the 1985 MVP award. Nice to see him honored once again.
The 1980s Cardinals teams always had a lot of speed, and I think Willie was the fastest of them all. Willie McGee running the bases after hitting one in the gap turned in to one of the most exciting plays in baseball. It is speed that makes baseball exciting. Heck, it's speed that makes any sport exciting.
Which is why the game today is not as good as it was in the 1980s. Now the offense consists of getting a guy on base and waiting for a home run. It's a little boring.
Those 1980s clubs had constant action. Once someone got on base, every pitch was a cat and mouse moment between pitcher, baserunner and hitter. It was just very interesting to watch.
The thing about Willie was he looked so awkward playing the game (except when he was accelerating or running the bases). Watching him hit made me nervous. First of all, he always looked uncomfortable, like he really didn't want to be in the batters box. This impersonation says it all.
And he'd swing at balls out of the strike zone all the time, looking bad doing it. I think the reason why he did this is because a lot of times he'd hit them. But he sure seemed to be fighting an 0-2 count most of the time.
And it always seemed to be at a critical moment that this would happen. Which is why in the post-season watching him could reach the brink of unbearable.
But he'd come through.
It's no wonder the Yankees traded him for pitcher Bob Sykes at the start of the 1982 season. The Cardinals would have never won that year without him. That trade was perhaps a steal greater than Brock-Broglio, although certainly less famous.
Here is a nice website devoted to Willie, which has a link to a 1998 article that attempts to explain why Willie is Willie.
He's definitely a St. Louis icon.