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Orlando Cepeda: 1937—: Baseball Player

Helped Cardinals Win Championship

For the next three years, Cepeda succeeded greatly with the St. Louis Cardinals, helping the team to win the World Series in 1967. Although he hit well during the regular season, boasting a .325 batting average and hitting 111 RBIs, he went three for 29 at the plate during the seven games of the World Series. But as many teammates and fans knew, Cepeda was the heart and soul of the St. Louis team. According to the Sporting News, "After nearly every victory, Cepeda, climbs onto a truck or table and leads his teammates in cheers or cranks up Latin music on a record player. Says teammate Dal Maxvill: 'Even if he's gone 0-for-4, and we win, he gets on the trunk and leads the cheers.'" Because of his amazing play during the regular season as well as his spirit that held his "El Birdos"—Cepeda's nickname for the Cardinals—he was easily elected as the National League MVP, the first unanimous selection for the award ever made. He helped them to return in 1968, but after gaining three games on the Detroit Tigers, they lost the final three games of the series.

In 1969 the Cardinals owner Gussie Busch decided to restructure the team, immediately sending Cepeda to the Atlanta Braves. Many Cardinals fans were distraught at the thought of "Cha-Cha" playing for another team, and many blamed this move for the reason that the club was not able to even compete for a pennant for close to 13 years. In Atlanta Cepeda performed well at the plate, but his knees continued to give him problems. He was also beginning to become one of the older players on the field and training camps and constant traveling were beginning to take a toll on him. Between 1972 and 1974 he was traded three times, first from Atlanta to Oakland, then to Boston, and finally to Kansas City where he finished out the 1974 before declaring that he was going to retire. By the time he retired, Cepeda had played in seven All-Star games, sported a World Series ring, and had been dubbed the best Latino player since Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who had died in a 1972 plane crash.

Then, on December 12, 1975, everything changed for Cepeda. Cepeda arrived at the San Juan airport after attending a baseball clinic in Colombia. When he went to retrieve two packages he had sent with his luggage, San Juan police confiscated the packages and found 170 pounds of marijuana in them. Cepeda was arrested for smuggling marijuana with the intent to distribute and was immediately put in jail. The trial dragged out in Puerto Rico over the next two years, but finally, in late 1977, a judge found Cepeda guilty of the trafficking charge and sentenced him to five years in jail.

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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