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Cepeda, Orlando (1937–)

Cepeda, Orlando (1937–)

Orlando Cepeda was born September 17, 1937, in Ponce, Puerto Rico. A baseball player with slugging power who starred with the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, he was one of the most visible Latinos in the game.

Baseball was a part of Cepeda's life from childhood. His father, Pedro, known simply as Perucho and The Bull, had built a legendary career as one of the island's all-time leading sluggers. Young Cepeda, tabbed Peruchin and Baby Bull by the local media, acquired the mantle and carried on his father's reputation. While he was in his teens Cepeda's baseball prowess on the high-school circuit caught the attention of major-league scouts. In 1956 he signed with the then New York Giants who, by the time of his 1958 arrival at the big leagues, had moved to San Francisco. He had a banner season that year, which included a .312 batting average, 25 home runs, and 96 runs batted in (RBIs). He earned the National League Rookie of the Year award, and the hearts of San Francisco baseball fans.

As his career developed, so too did his reputation as one of the league's most ferocious sluggers. In his seventeen major-league seasons, the Baby Bull compiled a .297 batting average, with 379 home runs and 1,365 RBIs. He earned the 1967 Most Valuable Player award after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to that year's world championship.

One year after his 1974 retirement, federal agents arrested Cepeda when they found marijuana in his luggage at the San Juan airport. He spent ten months in prison and, upon his release, vowed to reconstruct his damaged image. Though he spent countless hours working with humanitarian organizations and youth baseball programs, by 1996, after several attempts, he failed to win enough votes for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1999, however, the Veterans Committee elected to induct the Baby Bull into Cooperstown, where his plaque sits near that of Roberto Clemente, the only other Puerto Rican to be honored in the Hall of Fame.

See alsoClemente Walker, Roberto; Sports.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cepeda, Orlando. Baby Bull: From Hardball to Hard Time and Back. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing, 1998.

Markusen, Bruce. The Orlando Cepeda Story. Houston, TX: Pinata Books, 2001.

                                 Samuel O. Regalado

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