Hall of Fame Baseball Player Orlando Cepeda 1967 NL MVP Dies at Age 86

Hall of Fame Baseball Player Orlando Cepeda 1967 NL MVP Dies at Age 86

Orlando Manuel Cepeda Pennes, the Hall of Fame baseball player and 1967 National League MVP, passed away at the age of 86 on June 28, 2024, in Concord, California. Known affectionately as “the Baby Bull” and “Peruchin,” Cepeda was a Puerto Rican first baseman who left an indelible mark on Major League Baseball (MLB) during his career from 1958 to 1974.

Born on September 17, 1937, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Cepeda’s journey to baseball stardom began in humble circumstances. His father, Pedro Aníbal Cepeda, was a renowned baseball player in Puerto Rico, known as “Perucho” and “the Bull.” Despite the family’s financial struggles, Cepeda’s passion for baseball was ignited after watching his father play. This passion would eventually lead him to a storied career in the MLB.

Cepeda made his MLB debut on April 15, 1958, with the San Francisco Giants, the same year the team relocated to San Francisco. His rookie season was nothing short of spectacular, as he batted .312 with 25 home runs and 96 runs batted in (RBI), earning him the National League Rookie of the Year award by unanimous vote. His performance also included leading the league with 38 doubles.

Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, Cepeda was a consistent power hitter in the National League. He was a seven-time All-Star and frequently ranked among the league leaders in batting average, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases. In 1961, he led the league with 46 home runs and 142 RBI, setting a club record for right-handed hitters that still stands.

Cepeda’s career was not without challenges. He struggled with knee injuries, which limited his playing time and forced him to adapt his role on the field. In 1966, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he experienced a resurgence. In 1967, Cepeda had a career-high batting average of .325, hit 25 home runs, and led the league with 111 RBI, helping the Cardinals win the National League pennant. His outstanding performance earned him the National League MVP award, again by unanimous vote.

Cepeda’s impact extended beyond his playing career. After retiring, he faced personal challenges, including a 1975 arrest for transporting marijuana, which led to a ten-month prison sentence. However, he turned his life around and became a goodwill ambassador and scout for the San Francisco Giants in 1987. His efforts in humanitarian work and his contributions to baseball were recognized when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 by the Veterans Committee.

Cepeda’s legacy is marked by his impressive statistics and accolades. He retired with a .297 batting average, 2,351 hits, 379 home runs, and 1,365 RBI. He batted over .300 nine times and had five seasons with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. His 226 home runs and .535 slugging percentage with the Giants were second only to Willie Mays among right-handed hitters in franchise history. In the 1960s, his 254 home runs and 896 RBI ranked fifth among National League hitters.

Cepeda’s early life in Puerto Rico was shaped by his father’s influence and the challenges of growing up in a poor family. Despite these obstacles, he pursued his dream of playing professional baseball. His journey took him from the minor leagues to the MLB, where he quickly made a name for himself. His perseverance and talent earned him a place among the greatest players in baseball history.

Orlando Cepeda’s passing marks the end of an era for baseball fans who admired his skill, determination, and contributions to the sport. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations of players and fans alike.

Source: Various

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