San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants' Orlando Cepeda dies at 86

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San Francisco Giants baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda has died, the team and his family announced Friday. He was 86.

Cepeda was one of the oldest Hall of Famers following the death of baseball legend Willie Mays earlier this month.

“Our beloved Orlando passed away peacefully at home this evening, listening to his favorite music and surrounded by his loved ones,” said Cepeda's wife Nydia. “We take comfort that he is at peace.”

A statute of Cepeda is standing outside of Oracle Park, making him the fifth player in the franchise’s history to be honored with a statue outside the ballpark.

“This is truly a sad day for the San Francisco Giants,’’ said Larry Baer, Giants president and CEO. “For all of Orlando’s extraordinary baseball accomplishments, it was his generosity, kindness and joy that defined him. No one loved the game more. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Nydia, his five children, Orlando, Jr., Malcolm, Ali, Carl and Hector, his nine grandchildren, his one great granddaughter as well as his extended family and friends.”

Cepeda, also known as The Baby Bull and Cha Cha, debuted with the Giants on April 15, 1965 and proved to be a difficult player for opposing pitchers. He batted two spots behind Mays.

He was named Rookie of the Year after a stellar season that included batting .312 with 25 homers, 96 RBIs and 38 doubles. His season as a rookie was considered so strong that he finished ninth in the MVP voting.

“We lost a true gentleman and legend”, said Giants Chairman Greg Johnson in a news release. “Orlando was a great ambassador for the game throughout his playing career and beyond. He was one of the all-time great Giants and he will truly be missed. Our condolences go out to the Cepeda family for their tremendous loss and we extend our thoughts to Orlando’s teammates, his friends, and to all those touched by his passing.”

The Baby Bull was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 and was a 10-time All-Star in the eight years he played with the Giants. The Ponce, Puerto Rico native was only the second player ever from PR to reach that status the year he garnered the award.

Till today, Cepeda still holds the “SF-era (1958-present) single-season mark for the most RBI in a season with his 142 in 1961”, according to the Giants.

Upon leaving San Francisco, Cha Cha was named the National League MVP in 1967 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. That year he “batted .325 with 37 doubles, 25 homers and a league-best 111 RBI. Cepeda also earned his 11th and final All-Star nod that season as well.”

To honor Cepeda the Giants retired his No. 30 in 1999.

According to his family and former team, Cepeda spent over three decades as a community ambassador for the Giants and was an active member of the Giants Community Fund Advisory Board.

Additionally, he would be invited to speak to at-risk children and was and spokesman for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, Meals on Wheels San Francisco, Muttville and the Curry Senior Center.

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