The National Baseball Hall of Fame
1999
Induction Ceremony
Orlando Manuel Cepeda

"Orlando Cepeda was one of the very best hitters in my years of baseball" Ted Williams, former Boston Red Sox slugger and member of the Hall of Fame.

Related Info.

Orlando "The Baby Bull" Cepeda -- Full bio with photos.

A look at Cepeda's plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum.

Editor's notes of the 1999 Baseball Hall of Fame weekend.

Audio Clip - Cepeda speaks about being Puerto Rican.

Sunday, July 25th, 1999 -- In one of the largest crowds ever, the 1999 National Baseball Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony outside the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, NY and it was a big hit.  Over 50,000 fans bared the scorching sun to watch and cheer the Class of '99 get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The diverse crowd was restless and anxious to see those familiar faces of  great players who dominated the game in the 60's and 70's.

borinquena.jpg (13503 bytes) Before the commencement of the induction ceremony, the National Anthem of Puerto Rico "La Borinqueña" was sang beautifully by the Dream Team Trio and the National Anthem of the United States was sang nicely by Patti LuPone.  A very appropriate selection of anthems due to the large Hispanic contingency, including the Clemente family and Pedro Rosello (Governor of Puerto Rico).

Bud Selig (Commissioner of Major League Baseball) introduced the impressive class of inductees.  Robin Yount, Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Nestor Chylak, Smokey Joe Williams, Frank Selee and Puerto Rican native Orlando Cepeda.  Cepeda wearing a sharp white suit, got a big cheer from the crowd when he was introduced and approached the podium. His strides were graceful and his posture was firm, almost to a sense of relief that his long dream of getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame has now become reality.

A large Hispanic crowd was in attendance and they cheered and waved Puerto Rican flags with enthusiasm and pride in appreciation that one of their own has finally reached his ultimate destiny.  They shouted "Viva Puerto Rico" and "Viva Cepeda" throughout his induction speech and a sudden smirk in Cepeda's face confirmed that crowd's gesture was being heard.  

His speech was a brief 10-15 minutes, but his message was loud and clear, " I'm proud to be a Puerto Rican and I will be a role model to the people of my country".  

Cepeda is only the sixth Hispanic and the only living Puerto Rican in the Hall of Fame.  He mentioned that "I'm glad to be joining my dear friend and brother Juan Marichal from the Dominican Republic, in joining Luis Aparicio from Venezuela and Rod Carew from Panama, and I know in the near future, Tony Perez, Tony Olivo and Luis Tiant are going to be here because they belong in Cooperstown" (Listen to the actual audio clip).

Cepeda continued to speak proudly of his native homeland.  The island he left as a young boy to pursue his dream of playing professional baseball and overcome a childhood of poverty.  "I'm a very lucky person to be born with the skill to play baseball and through baseball I built a name for myself" said Cepeda.  

As Cepeda's speech ended and he was presented with his Hall of Fame plaque, I couldn't help to think about the trials and tribulations Cepeda had to endure after retirement in 1974. How he turned his life around from despair and ostracism from his homeland to becoming an ambassador of goodwill and the forth-coming of his compatriot and good friend Roberto Clemente.  Now finally his career as a baseball player is complete, "This seals it" he said. "To get the recognition that every ballplayer seeks - this is completion for me."

cepeda-signs.jpg (12452 bytes)
The following day, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and many other distinguished members of the Hall of Fame attended an autograph session for children at the Clark Sports Center. Many children spoke to the Hall of Famers and posed for pictures as they got their cards or papers autographed.  

It was great seeing children enjoy themselves and listen to words of wisdom from the legends of baseball. The perfect topping to a memorable weekend.



1999 Hall of Fame Inductees

Special thanks to everyone at The National Baseball Hall of Fame
for giving Latino Legends in Sports the privilege to cover this historical event!



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