Orlando Manuel Cepeda
September 17, 1937 - Present
Birthplace: Ponce, Puerto Rico
Height: 6'3" Weight: 205
The 1999 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony featuring Orlando Cepeda.
Orlando "Peruchin - The Baby Bull" Cepeda, son of legendary Puerto Rican baseball star Pedro Perucho "The Bull" Cepeda, was only 20-years-old when he arrived to the Major Leagues in 1958.
In his first Major League game, this Latino powerhouse homered to help beat Don Drysdale and the Dodgers. It was a picture perfect beginning to a spectacular career that includes nine .300 seasons and eight seasons of 25 or more homers.
As a rookie in 1958, Cepeda belted 25 homers, led the National League with 38 doubles, knocked in 96 runs and batted .312. Those numbers won Cepeda Rookie of the Year honors for the San Francisco Giants and his manager for the first two years, Bill Rigney called him "The best young right-handed power hitter I've ever seen."
Despite being a fan favorite in San Francisco which made him as popular as Willie Mays, Cepeda's conflicts with management bounced him to the St. Louis Cardinals in mid-1966. First baseman Orlando Cepeda was now "Cha-Cha" in St. Louis because of his constant love & desire to bring a stereo to the club house to share his beloved salsa music.
Respecting Cepeda's taste turned him into the 1967 MVP by hitting .325 and driving in 111 RBIs. After leading the Cardinals to a pennant in 1967, they went on to become world champions by beating the Boston RedSox in a 7-game series.
Cepeda appeared in three world series, was a seven-time All-Star (1959-64, 67) and was the National League MVP in 1967 with the St. Louis Cardinals. Cepeda was also known to get that clutch hit or home run to knock in winning runs late in the game. He homered against 187 different pitchers, with Milwaukee Braves teammates Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette his favorite targets (10 homers apiece). No wonder Burdette called Cepeda "the toughest hitter I ever faced."
After his retirement in 1975, Cepeda was recognized nationally for his humanitarian efforts as an ambassador for baseball. The Ponce, Puerto Rican native served as honorary spokesman for the Crohn's and Colitis foundation of America, and participates in "Athletes against Aids." Cepeda has helped raise more than $10,000 for baseball equipment for the Roberto Clemente Latin American Athletic Club's Baseball League in the mission district. But those good deeds were over-shadowed when Cepeda was arrested at an airport on charges of trying to pick up 160 pounds of marijuana. He was sentenced to 5 years but only did 10 months at a state prison. This obviously worked against him when bids for the Hall of Fame came up.
In 1993, Cepeda was inducted into the Puerto Rico Sports Hall of Fame, but just missed being voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by a mere seven votes. The fifth narrowest margin a player ever missed being inducted in baseball history.
Of the 18 retired players who have hit more than 300 homers and batted over .295 for their career, only Cepeda wasn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame until March of 1999, when Cepeda along with Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount and George Brett were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Orlando Cepeda joins the late Roberto Clemente as the only Puerto Ricans in the Hall of Fame.During the press conference/celebration in San Francisco, Cepeda, now 62, was handed roses, a glass of champagne and a jersey with "Hall of Fame" written on it. The room was filled with balloons and a Latin song blasting through the speakers entitled "Viva Cepeda."
"It's hard to explain the feeling when they told me I was selected to the Hall of Fame," Cepeda said at 3com park in San Francisco. "I've been ready for this for 17 years. I've been through good things, bad things, but I was blessed to be born with the talent to play baseball." said Cepeda. The newly elected Hall of Famer also got another reward-the Giants will retire his No. 30 uniform, making him only the ninth player in franchise history to be honored.
The day he's been waiting for came on July 25, 1999, when Cepeda was welcomed by commissioner Bud Selig to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cepeda got a big cheer from the huge crowd when he was introduced and approached the podium. He knew that finally his dream has come true (Click here for full coverage of his 1999 BHOF induction ceremony).
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 National Baseball Hall of Fame.
1958 SF Giants Starting Lineup
(From left to right: Jim Davenport, Danny O'Connell, Willie Mays, Willie Kirkland, Orlando Cepeda, Hank Sauer, Daryl Spenser, Valmy Thomas, Ruben Gomez).
Clemente | Lefty Gomez | Martin
Dihigo | Wilfred
Benitez | Sammy Sosa
Chi-Chi Rodriguez | Orlando Cepeda | Tony Perez | Eusebio Pedroza | Anthony Muñoz | Adrian Fernandez
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