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Orlando Cepeda

Baseball world mourns Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda

Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda helped Cardinals win 1967 World Series

Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, one of the greatest Puerto Rican big leaguers of all time, has died. The 1967 National League Most Valuable Player was 86 years old.

His passing was announced by his wife Nydia in a statement through the San Francisco Giants.

“Our beloved Orlando passed away peacefully at home this evening, listening to his favorite music and surrounded by his loved ones,” Nydia Cepeda said. “We take comfort that he is at peace.”

Orlando “Cha-Cha” Cepeda was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 17, 1937. He debuted with the Giants in 1958 during their inaugural season on the West Coast after leaving New York.

Cepeda was the son of Pedro Cepeda, one of the greatest Puerto Rican baseball players of his generation. Pedro Cepeda, who was nicknamed “Perucho and Bull,” played with some of the greatest Negro League stars of his time in winter ball teams in the Dominican Republic.

Pedro Cepeda also played in Venezuela and his native Puerto Rico. The elder Cepeda never played in the majors, though, because of the color line that wasn’t broken until Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Giants in 1947.

Orlando Cepeda, Cha-Cha

Orlando Cepeda inherited his father’s baseball skills. He also was given the derivative of his father’s nicknames as Peruchin and Baby Bull. Cepeda was also known as Cha-Cha, the nickname fans chanted when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

He was 20 years old when he made his big league debut in 1958 . Cepeda was a unanimous selection for the 1958 NL Rookie of the Year Award.

Orlando Cepeda also stood up against racism during his playing career with the Giants. He was among a group of Latino players, including Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, who were told by white manager Alvin Dark not to speak in their native Spanish.

The legendary Willie Mays, who died earlier this month, brokered peace between Dark and the Latino players. Despite Dark’s objections, Cepeda and his Latino teammates continued speaking Spanish in the clubhouse, dugout and on the field.


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The 11-time All-Star helped the St. Louis Cardinals with the 1967 World Series over the Boston Red Sox. Cepeda also earned the NL MVP Award that season. An arrest for marijuana possession in Puerto Rico cost him in the Baseball Hall of Fame elections during his 15 years on the BBWAA ballot.

He was eventually voted into the Hall of Fame on a veterans committee in 1999. Cepeda became the second native of Puerto Rico elected into the Hall in Cooperstown, N.Y., following Roberto Clemente.

Proud Boricua

“I’m proud to be a Puerto Rican,” he said during his induction speech. “Even though I don’t live in Puerto Rico, I’m proud to be a Puerto Rican. That’s why this day is a wonderful day for Puerto Rico, for my family and for all the Latin countries because Puerto Rico, Dominican, Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba, we are Hispanic.

“Also, it’s a great, huge honor to be the second Puerto Rican inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

Cepeda played with the Giants, Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Oakland A’s, Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals over his 17-year career.

“Orlando Cepeda’s unabashed love for the game of baseball sparkled during his extraordinary playing career, and later as one of the game’s enduring ambassadors,” said Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark. “We will miss his wonderful smile at Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown, where his spirit will shine forever, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the Cepeda family.”

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