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  Viva Cepeda

 

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"From Ponce to Cooperstown"

A tribute to Orlando Cepeda, who, on May 1st, 1999
became only the 2nd Puerto Rican to be inducted into
Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.

Cepeda batting

 Orlando Cepeda was one of the original San Francisco Giants. He made his major league debut at Seals Stadium on April 15, 1958 - opening day of the Giants first year in San Francisco. The "Baby Bull" wasted little time endearing himself to the local fans. In only his second at bat, he hit the major league's first west coast homer. The Giants went on to defeat the rival Dodgers 8-0. Cepeda went on to become one of the most popular Giants of all time.

Cepeda was born Sept. 17, 1937 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He came to the U.S. when he was 16, and was assigned to a team in Salem, VA. The day before his first game, he found out his father had died in Puerto Rico. His father was Pedro "Perucho" Cepeda, often called the "Babe Ruth" of Puerto Rican baseball, and was a national hero there. Orlando used his $500 signing bonus to bury his father.

Cepeda was a part of the Giants' early focus on Latin players, including Juan Marichal, the Alou brothers, and Jose Pagan. His infectious, cheerful attitude, enthusiasm for the game, and immense talent soon made him a fan favorite.

Cepeda catching

In 1958, Orlando collected a Giants rookie record 96 RBI, and was the unanimous choice for the Rookie-of-the-Year award. The fans selected him as the team MVP, despite Willie Mays' superior statistics.

From 1959-1964, he played in 6 All-Star games.

On July 4th of 1961, Cepeda had 8 RBI in a victory over the Cubs, tying Willie Mays' team record for RBI in a single game. He finished the season with 142 RBI, a team record. That year, he also had a .311 batting avg. and a career-high 46 home runs.

In 1962, Orlando drove in the winning run in the 9th inning of the deciding game of the playoffs against the Dodgers, leading the S.F. Giants to their 1st NL pennant.

In 1965, Cepeda was limited to 33 games, due to a knee injury.

 

 

Cepeda headshot

On May 8th of 1966, in an effort to break a logjam at 1st base with Willie McCovey, the Giants traded Cepeda to St. Louis for pitcher Ray Sadecki. A move regarded by most Giants fans as the worst trade they ever made. Cepeda won the NL Comeback Player of the Year award with the Cardinals.

In 1967, Orlando's 25 homeruns, .325 avg., and league-leading 111 RBI led the Cardinals to a World Series championship. He became the first player to win a Most Valuable Player award with a unanimous vote. He is the only player ever to have won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards with unanimous votes.

In 1973, Cepeda was the first recipient of the American League's Designated Hitter of the year award.

 

 

Cepeda headshot 2

In 1974, Orlando Cepeda retired after 17 seasons. He finished his career with 397 home runs, 1,365 RBI, and a .297 batting average (.308 with the Giants). He had hit 25 or more HR's eight times, and batted over .300 nine times. He was an 11 time All-Star, playing 9 times, and played in 3 World Series. He batted clean-up behind Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

Cepeda was passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America for 15 years, missing by just 7 votes his final time on the Hall Of Fame ballot in 1993. However, he was inducted into the Puerto Rico Sports Hall of Fame that year.

He becomes the 28th man to wear a Giants uniform for a significant portion of his career to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, making the Giants the franchise with the most inductees.

Cepeda thanked the Veterans Committee, saying his induction is "A victory for San Francisco, for Puerto Rico, and for everybody who has supported me and stood by me."

Cepeda '99

Peter Magowan said, "Orlando was more than a hall of fame player for the Giants. He was one of the early pioneers and role models for Latin ballplayers." Cepeda's number 30 was retired in Candlestick Park ceremonies on July 11th 1999, which was "Orlando Cepeda Day" at the ballpark. Cepeda's name and number now adorn the outfield fence, along with those of the eight other Giants so honored. (Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Bill terry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, and Willie McCovey).

Today, Orlando is a Giants community Representative, a position he has held since 1990. He has raised thousands of dollars for youth baseball, and speaks to at-risk kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

He makes his home in Suisun City, CA.
The other Puerto Rican in the Hall of Fame is Roberto Clemente.


Related Links

Orlando Cepeda's lifetime statistics: Including NLCS and World Series stats
The Official Roberto Clemente Website: The other Puerto Rican Hall of Famer


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Hall of Fame majorleaguepins.com - SF Giants pins and collectibles


Some photos courtesy of the S.F. Giants Virtual Dugout, and used with permission.

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