Orlando Cepeda, Giants legend and Hall of Famer, dead at 86


San Francisco Giants legend and Baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda “passed away peacefully” on Friday night, his family confirmed in a statement to the team. He was 86. 

“Our beloved Orlando passed away peacefully at home this evening, listening to his favorite music and surrounded by his loved ones,” his wife, Nydia, said in a statement shared by the Giants on Friday. 

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Orlando Cepeda, of the S.F. Giants, during spring training. (Getty Images)

“We take comfort that he is at peace.”

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A cause of death was not released. The heartbreaking news of Cepeda’s passing comes just a little over a week after the death of former Giants teammate Willie Mays. 

“What another gut punch,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said of the difficult month for the organization. “Another incredible personality. Just beloved here, the statue out front. The numbers he put up. There are a lot of legends here. He was certainly right in the middle of that. To have it so close in proximity to Willie, it’s kind of staggering.”

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(l-r) San Francisco Giants’ Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays at the Polo Grounds in New York, NY, on September 11, 1963. (Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Cepeda, nicknamed “The Baby Bull,” played first base during his 17 seasons in the majors, beginning with the Giants. He also spent time with St. Louis, Atlanta, Oakland, Boston and Kansas City. In the spring of 1969, Cepeda was traded by the Cardinals to the Braves for Joe Torre.

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Named the 1958 NL Rookie of the Year with San Francisco and NL MVP in 1967 with St. Louis, Cepeda would play in three World Series, winning one in 1967. In 1961, he led the NL with 46 homers and 142 RBIs. An 11-time All-Star, Cepeda was a .297 career hitter with 379 home runs.

“Orlando Cepeda was one of the best hitters of his generation. He starred for three historic National League franchises, and the 11-time All-Star played alongside Hall of Fame players throughout his career,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

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Orlando Cepeda, #30 of the San Francisco Giants, swings at the pitch during an MLB game agianst the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 20, 1961, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The Dodgers’ catcher is Norm Sherry, #34, and the umpire is Dusty Boggess.   (Hy Peskin/Getty Images)

“Orlando was the 1958 National League Rookie of the Year when Major League Baseball debuted in San Francisco, where later ‘The Baby Bull’s’ number 30 was retired. In 1967, he earned NL MVP honors during the St. Louis Cardinals’ World Championship season.”

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Manfred continued, “Orlando overcame challenges throughout his life to build a Hall of Fame career. This beloved figure from Puerto Rico was one of the many players of his era who helped turn baseball into a multicultural game. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, his friends across our game, and his many fans in Puerto Rico, San Francisco, St. Louis, Atlanta and beyond.”

After his playing career ended, Cepeda was convicted in 1976 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, of smuggling marijuana and sentenced to five years in prison. He served less than a year, but the conviction likely led to his not being elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

He was later elected by the Veterans Committee in 1999.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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