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Orlando Cepeda

Orlando Cepeda

Position(s):
1B, 3B, LF, OF, RF, DH
Nicknames:
Cha Cha, Baby Bull
Born:
September 17, 1937
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 2"
Weight:
210 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-15-1958 with SFN
Allstar Selections:
1958 ROOK, 1967 MVP
Hall of Fame:
1999

Intro

Orlando Cepeda was teammate to no less than thirteen future Hall of Famers, and he played for another. He won pennants with two NL teams, and later was the first DH in Red Sox history. He was a power hitter who finished in the top ten in slugging nine times. He won the Rookie of the Year award (1958), and MVP, in 1967. Despite an earlier conviction for drugs he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 2000.

Best Season

Cepeda led the NL in homers (46), and RBI (142), and finished in the top ten in batting (.311), slugging (.609), OPS, games, at-bats, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, and steals. He finished second in MVP voting to Cincinnati's Frank Robinson.

Facts:

Orlando Cepeda hit the first home run ever on the West Coast, in 1958 as a rookie. It was his first ML homer.

Transition

After his first seven ML seasons, in which he hit .309 and averaged 32 homers and 107 RBI, fans expected Cepeda to be the greatest Latin player in history. But a knee injury cost him most of 1965, and the next spring he was dealt to the Cards, where he rebounded and was named Comeback Player of the Year. In '67 he won his only MVP award, to the chagrin of Giant fans it came in a Redbird uniform.

Strengths

Power, which he generated largely through his great wrist action. Cepeda hit some of the hardest hit home runs in several NL ballparks. There are still dozens of players he played with or against who can tell stories of how Cepeda hit his home runs so hard, they seemed to launch out of the park with terrific speed. In that sense, he was much like Mark McGwire. One of his other great strengths was his leadership ability.

 

Quotes:
    "He was the toughest hitter I ever faced." - Lew Burdette

    "All right, El Birdos, who is the best team in the league? Is it the Dodgers? (Response: No!) Is it the Giants? (Response: No!) Who's the best team in the league? (Response: We are!)" - Cheer of the sort led by Orlando Cepeda of the Cardinals after every game, especially after beating the Giants

Notable Achievements

    * NL Rookie of the Year Award (1958)(unanimously)
    * 7-time NL All-Star (1959-1964 & 1967)
    * NL MVP (1967))(unanimously)
    * NL Doubles Leader (1958)
    * NL Home Runs Leader (1961)
    * 2-time NL RBI Leader (1961 & 1967)
    * 20-Home Run Seasons: 12 (1958-1964, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970 & 1973)
    * 30-Home Run Seasons: 5 (1961-1964 & 1970)
    * 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1961)
    * 100 RBI Seasons: 5 (1959, 1961, 1962, 1967 & 1970)
    * 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 3 (1961-1963)
    * Only player in the National League to win ROY and MVP unanimously
    * Won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1967
    * Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1999

Home Run Facts
182 at home, 197 on the road; 220 solo-shots, 102 two-run Hr, 48 three-run HR, and nine grand slams; hiot two HR in one game 22 times, three in a game once; blasted five homers in extra-innings, two inside-the-park, and two as a pinch-hitter; hit 258 off RHP and 121 off LHP. In all, Cepeda homered in 26 different parks.

Matchup BigData
Cepeda hit 10 home runs off both Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette of the Braves.

Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1958
Vada Pinson
Ron Fairly
Tony Taylor
Orlando Cepeda
Norm Cash
Felipe Alou
Mudcat Grant
Frank Howard
Jerry Adair

Nicknames
Cha Cha,Baby Bull

He was both "Cha-Cha" and "Baby Bull," the latter a nickname he inherited because his father was a great baseball player known as "Bull."

Family Tree
Cepeda's father, Perucho, was one of the greatest players in Puerto Rican baseball history.

Minor League Baseball

Zorilla persuaded Cepeda's family to purchase an airplane ticket so that he could participate in a New York Giants tryout. After passing the tryout, the Giants assigned him to Sandersville, a Class D team. Cepeda was subsequently transferred to a team in Salem, Virginia. He had trouble adapting, due to not speaking English and encountering racial segregation being promoted by the Jim Crow laws. Shortly after this move, Zorilla called to inform him that his father was in critical condition. Pedro Cepeda died a few days later. Orlando paid the burial expenses and returned to Salem. Cepeda was depressed, which affected his performance. He wanted to quit and return to Puerto Rico, but Zorilla convinced him to play for Kokomo Giants, a team that participated in the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League. After arriving, Walt Dixon, the team's manager, assigned him to the third baseman position. Cepeda batted in the "cleanup spot," finishing with a .393 average, hitting 21 home runs and 91 runs batted in. Jim Tobin, who owned his contract noticed his potetial and sold his player's rights back to the New York Giants. After a visit to Puerto Rico, Cepeda returned to New York, before being sent to play with St. Cloud in Class C. The team reassigned him to play first base. Cepeda adapted to the change quickly. That year, he won the Northern League Triple Crown, finishing with an average of .355 with 112 RBIs and 26 home runs. Jack Schwarz promoted him to Class B, a decision that he protested, noting that players with worse performance were being sent to Double A. Following a solid season in Class B, Cepeda played for the Crabbers in the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League (LBPPR) during the winter, concluding with averages of .310, 11 home runs and 40 RBIs. He then signed a Class A contract with Springfield, only accepting it if he was allowed to play with the Minneapolis Millers in spring training. Cepeda had a slow start, but his averages improved as the games advanced and the team retained him in their roster. After completing the 1957 season with the Millers, he returned to Puerto Rico and played in the LBPPR. While playing with Santurce, Bill Rigney, Horace Stoneham and Tom Sheehan scouted him in behalf of the Giants, who had just moved from New York to San Francisco. He was invited to the team's spring training along other prospects, including Felipe Alou and Willie Kirkland.

Humanitarian and additional sports recognitions

Cepeda has been recognized nationally for his humanitarian efforts as an ambassador for baseball. He served as an honorary spokesman for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.

In 2001, he won the Ernie Banks Positive Image Lifetime Achievement Award. The citation for the award reads, in part, "The legacy he is leaving is an impressive one indeed. His commitment to community service includes credentials for a Humanitarian Hall of Fame. He is now recognized nationally for his humanitarian efforts as an ambassador for baseball and the San Francisco Giants." It goes on to list many of his national and community contributions, including his regular visits to inner-city schools throughout the country in conjunction with HOPE: Helping Other People Excel. "Each December, Orlando tours as part of the Giants Christmas Caravan visiting hospitals, schools and youth groups including the UC San Francisco Medical Center pediatric cancer ward. He is a participant in Athletes Against AIDS. He is also a public speaker for the Omega Boys and Girls Club, counseling at-risk children in the community."

The Giants retired Orlando Cepeda's number 30. It hangs on the facing of the upper deck in the left field corner of AT&T Park. On September 6, 2008, the Giants unveiled a statue of Cepeda next to the installation. He is the fourth Giant to be honored with a statue; the other players are Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal.

In a 1976 Esquire magazine article, sportswriter Harry Stein published an "All Time All-Star Argument Starter," consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Cepeda, a Puerto Rican, was the first baseman on Stein's Latin team. In September 2008, the San Francisco Giants added a life size bronze statue on the 4th corner of the stadium to honor Orlando Cepeda as one of the greatest Giants of all time, joining other Hall of Fame players on the other three corners of the stadium. These include Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey. Orlando Cepeda continues to be part of the Giants front office staff and join in with spring training activities.

Cepeda is a Buddhist and S?ka Gakkai International (SGI-USA) member. Cepeda shared his experience at an SGI-USA meeting: "I had to fight every day," said Cepeda, explaining how he endured growing up in his native Puerto Rico. "But when I joined the SGI-USA, I learned that peace comes from inside. From my Buddhist practice, I have learned how to be a person who cares about others."

Books by and about Orlando Cepeda

    * My Ups and Downs in Baseball by Orlando Cepeda with Charles Einstein. Putnam (1968; 2000).
    * High and Inside: Orlando Cepeda's Story by Orlando Cepeda with Mary Kelly. Hardwood Press (1984).
    * Baby Bull: From Hardball to Hard Time and Back by Orlando Cepeda with Herb Fagen. Taylor Trade Publishing (1998).
    * The Orlando Cepeda Story by Bruce Markusen. Pinata Books (2001).

 

Links and Sources:

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Tagged:
1999 Hall of Fame, All Star, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Comeback Player of the Year Award, Kansas City Royals, NL MVP 1967, Oakland Athletics, Orlando Cepeda, Rookie of the Year Award, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals

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