3 minute read

Orlando Cepeda: 1937—: Baseball Player

Followed In Father's Footsteps

Orlando Manuel Cepeda was born on September 17, 1937, in the seaport city of Ponce, Puerto Rico. Like many Puerto Ricans during this time period, Cepeda lived with few physical possessions and had little formal education. Yet his life was filled with hope and inspiration, much of it stemming from his father, Perucho Cepeda. Perucho was a baseball player who excelled in the Caribbean leagues, playing on Dominican club teams alongside Negro League greats Satchel Paige, James "Cool Papa" Bell, and Josh Gibson. He was nicknameded the "Bull" and because he was a power hitter was known as "the Babe Ruth of Puerto Rico." But the Caribbean leagues were difficult for even the best players and as Perucho began to get older, he found himself moving around from team to team, often living in destitution away from his family, and what money he did not send back to his wife and children, he gambled away.

At a Glance . . .

Born Orlando Manuel Cepeda on September 17, 1937, in Ponce, Puerto Rico; son of Perucho Cepeda; married Annie (divorced 1973); married Nydia, 1975 (divorced 1984); married Marian Ortiz, 1985; children: Orlando Jr., Malcolm, Ali Manuel, Hector.

Career: Baseball player: San Francisco Giants, 1st baseman, 1958-66; St. Louis Cardinals, 1966-68; Atlanta Braves, 1969-72; Oakland Athletics, 1972; Boston Red Sox, 1973; Kansas City Royals, 1974; San Francisco Giants Organization, community representative and scout, 1990–.

Awards: Rookie of the Year, 1958; Comeback Player of the Year, 1967; National League Most Valuable Player, 1967; Designated Hitter of the Year, 1973; Puerto Rican Sports Hall of Fame, inductee, 1993; Baseball Hall of Fame, inductee, 1999.

Perucho passed on his love of baseball to Cepeda at an early age and whenever he was not off chasing a job on a Caribbean league team, he was teaching Cepeda how to hit, field, and even pitch. Cepeda saw the prestige and honor that his father received from playing baseball, and commented to the San Francisco Chronicle, "When I was a kid, I wanted to be like my father. He was such a well-known person. In the morning, we used to go shopping. Every second, people stopped to say hello. I wanted to be a ballplayer just like him." Cepeda worked hard to make that dream become a reality, even going so far as to move to the United States, knowing little English and few people, to join a minor league team in Virginia. Shortly after Cepeda had moved to Virginia, Perucho came down with malaria and quickly deteriorated. He flew back to Puerto Rico when he heard the news, but found his father in a coma by the time he arrived. Perucho died on April 16, 1955, sinking Cepeda into a deep depression, one so great it almost prevented him from returning to the minor leagues. Cepeda's mother, however, would not let that happen. He told The Sporting News, "My mother said, 'You made a commitment to your father. Too, we have no money.' I was making $175 a month. So I flew back to Virginia."

From Virginia Cepeda moved on to play for a minor league team in Minneapolis. It was here that Giants scout Tom Sheehan first saw Cepeda play first base. As Jim Davenport, one of Cepeda's former teammates in both the minor and major leagues, told the San Francisco Chronicle, " Tom went back to the Giants and said, 'I don't know about this Davenport kid, but you've got a first baseman down there who's going to make it to the Hall of Fame someday.'" Cepeda was soon courted by the Giants, and by 1958 he had signed a contract to play in San Francisco.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyOrlando Cepeda: 1937—: Baseball Player Biography - Followed In Father's Footsteps, Won Rookie Of The Year, Helped Cardinals Win Championship