The official Press Release
Comments from the Giants Organization
The retirement of Orlando's number
Today, he can add one more label which will be indelibly linked to his name for eternity: Hall of Famer.
At 10:45 this morning, Cepeda received a phone call from Ed Stack, chairman of baseball's Hall of Fame, in Tampa, Fla. Stack informed Orlando that the 14-member Veterans Committee had elected him for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"This is a dream come true," said Cepeda, a lifetime .297 hitter with 379 home runs and 1,364 RBI during his 17-year Major League career with the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Oakland A's and Kansas City Royals.
"From the bottom of my heart, I want thank all of the committee members who voted for me. I also want to thank all my family and friends who never stopped believing in me. This honor is for them, too."
Peter Magowan, the Giants' president and managing general partner, issued a club statement today on Cepeda's election:
"Orlando Cepeda was one of the most popular players ever to wear a Giants uniform. We are so proud of him, not only for today's wonderful announcement, but also for his remarkable community work, and the strength and dignity he's exhibited in overcoming adversity in both his baseball and personal lives. He richly deserves this special place in baseball history, and on behalf of the entire San Francisco Giants family, I congratulate Orlando on this monumental achievement."
A six-time National League All-Star, the 61-year-old Cepeda reeled off numerous award-winning seasons during his career which spanned from 1958-74. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the Baby Bull enjoyed nine Major League seasons in which he batted .300 or better. He appeared in three World Series, with his first being the 1962 Series featuring the Giants and Yankees, and won several individual league honors including 1958 Rookie of the Year, 1966 Comeback Player of the Year, 1967 Most Valuable Player and 1973 Designated Hitter of the Year.
Today's announcement is particularly gratifying to Cepeda, who narrowly missed being voted into the Hall of Fame in the final year on the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) ballot in 1993. Garnering 335 votes in his 15th and final year, he missed making the Hall by only seven votes--the fifth-narrowest margin in history. Last year marked the first year Cepeda was eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee, which is comprised of writers, executives and Hall of Famers. The Committee met in Tampa, Fla. earlier today.
In the 116-year history of the Giants franchise in New York and San Francisco, the Giants have enshrined more Hall of Fame members than any other team in baseball. Cepeda, who will attend induction ceremonies at Cooperstown, N.Y. Sunday, July 25, becomes the 26th Hall of Famer who spent the majority of their career in a Giants uniform. Also slated to be enshrined that day are Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount, as well as former San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Bob Stevens, ex-Washington Senators' broadcaster Arch McDonald, American League umpire Nester Chylak, Negro League star Smokey Joe Willilams and turn-of-the-century manager Frank Selee.
And with Orlando's election, remarkably, he becomes the fifth Hall of Fame member who played on the same San Francisco team during the five-year period from 1962-66. The four others are outfielder Willie Mays (inducted in 1979), first baseman Willie McCovey (1986) and pitchers Juan Marichal (1983) and Gaylord Perry (1991). Cepeda becomes the first Giant to be named to the Hall of Fame in eight years, with Perry being the last in 1991.
One of Major League Baseball's pioneers in breaking down barriers for Latin American players, Cepeda also became a member of the Puerto Rico Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
Cepeda, who lives with his wife, Miriam, in the Bay Area suburb of Suisun City, has also received national accolades for his humanitarian efforts as an ambassador for baseball and the Giants.
Entering his 10th year as a community relations representative for the club, Orlando visits inner-city schools in Northern California and throughout the country, speaking to "at-risk" children about the dangers of drug and alcohol. He also has served as honorary spokesperson for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, has participated in AIDS awareness and polio immunization programs for young adults and children, and annually accompanies other Giants players and staff on the team's annual "Giants Care-A-Van" which visits hospitals and youth groups throughout Northern California each January.
Cepeda's debut was merely a taste of the career that would follow: 1958 Rookie of the Year, 1966 Comeback Player of the Year, 1967 National League MVP, 1973 Designated Hitter of the Year, nine .300 seasons, three World Series appearances.
Look through the Giants record book, and you'll see Cepeda's name appears liberally throughout the lists of all-time Giants greats. He still leads San Francisco first basemen for most runs batted in and most home runs in one season.
Now you can add this to his list of achievements: member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"It's a recognition of his ability as a Major League player and as one of the legitimate stars of the game ... he is recognized as what he was, one of the game's outstanding players," says Giants broadcaster Lon Simmons, who saw Cepeda play in his heyday.
But what Cepeda represents to San Francisco Giants fans goes far beyond numbers and awards. While many might name fellow Hall of Famer Willie Mays as the greatest Giant ever, Cepeda holds a special place as perhaps the first homegrown star of the San Francisco era.
His infectious, cheerful attitude also endeared him to the fans, who named him the team's MVP in his rookie year, despite Mays' superior statistics.
Says Simmons: "He was just like he is now, so enthusiastic, great smile, still the baby face. ... he was ingenuous. He was just happy he was there" in the Major Leagues.
"Cha Cha," as Cepeda was also known, embodied the San Francisco Giants' early focus on Latin players. His name resonates alongside those of Juan Marichal, the Alou brothers and Jose Pagan as a vital part of the club's heritage. His love of jazz and salsa music is legendary, and living in San Francisco during his Giants' playing days brought him close to the vibrant nightlife of the city.
Simmons recalls a night where he and his wife visited a Latin club that was a particular favorite of Cepeda's. When those in the club realized that he was a Giants broadcaster, says Simmons, "Everybody was our pal because of Orlando."
"He was Cha Cha. He loved life, he lived it, he had fun and played great baseball."
The day the Giants traded Cepeda to the Cardinals for Ray Sadecki was a traumatic one for fans and Cepeda alike, but the Baby Bull rebounded to win a World Series with St. Louis and become the first unanimous NL MVP. His disappointment at leaving San Francisco didn't stand in the way of his enthusiasm for the game and his immense talent.
His selection to the Puerto Rico Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 ironically came in the same year he failed to win election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his final year of eligibility on the writers' ballot. Giants fans and Cepeda were especially crestfallen because he missed induction by a mere seven votes, the fifth-smallest margin for a player who missed getting elected.
In his post-baseball life, Cepeda remains a star for his humanitarian efforts and social outreach. The Giants appointed him a community representative in 1990, allowing him to return to the city that embraced him more than 40 years ago. He has raised thousands of dollars for youth baseball and speaks to at-risk kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. He's been a Hall of Famer in the minds of Giants fans for some time; now that belief is reality.
Cepeda, who was named to the Hall of Fame earlier today by the Veterans Committee, will be honored prior to the Giants-Cardinals 1:05 p.m. game July 11 - exactly two weeks before he is scheduled to be inducted into baseball's shrine in Cooperstown.
A near-capacity crowd of 49,570 paid tribute to Cepeda at 3Com Park July 27, 1993, when the "Baby Bull" was last honored by the Giants at Latin American Day. That season marked the final year he was eligible on the baseball writers' ballot for the Hall of Fame. Orlando subsequently garnered 335 votes from the BBWAA members, as he missed making the Hall by only seven votes, the fifth-narrowest margin in history.
"Orlando Cepeda was more than a Hall of Fame player for the Giants," said Magowan. "He was also one of the game's early pioneers and role models for Latin ballplayers. Giants fans have been devoted to Orlando for many, many years and we anticipate there will be a tremendous outpouring of love and appreciation when he's honored July 11th."
Billed as "Orlando Cepeda Day," the July 11 event will feature brief comments from Giants officials and former teammates, as well as the formal retirement of Giants' jersey No. 30. Cepeda becomes the ninth player/manager in the 116-year history of the New York-San Francisco Giants franchise to have his uniform number retired. The previous eight are Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey.