Bruce Markusen's Page / Hall of Fame
The Baby Bull Visits The Hall Of Fame
By Bruce Markusen
Orlando Cepeda has experienced one of the most storied lives in baseball history. During his six stops in the major leagues, he played with 16 Hall of Famers, a simply remarkable total. The lengthy list of legends included Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, arguably the two greatest players of the 1960s, and Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal, two of the eras hallmark pitchers. So its only fitting that on Wednesday Cepeda paid a visit to Cooperstown, where he will soon be joining his former teammates as full-fledged members of the Hall of Fame.
While many Hall of Famers played for only two or three teams during their careers, Cepeda lived a far more diversified baseball life. In 1958, he made his major league debut with the San Francisco Giants, the first of his half-dozen big league teams. During his nine-year stay in the Bay Area, he played with future National League president Bill White and four eventual members of the Hall of Fame: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. A trade in the middle of the 1966 season sent him to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he played with the Hall of Fame likes of Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Steve Carlton, and became friendly with such notables as Curt Flood, Roger Maris, and current New York Yankees broadcaster Tim McCarver. After a short stint in St. Louis that included two pennants and a world championship, the Cardinals traded him to the Atlanta Braves for another well-known nameJoe Torre.
Cepeda batted behind Hank Aaron in a stacked Braves lineup, while also offering support to the teams knuckleballing stalwarts, Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm. In 1972, chronic knee problems and a dispute with Atlanta management led to a trade to the Oakland Asthis time in exchange for the talented but troubled Denny McLain. Although Cepeda came to bat only three times for the As, he did share roster space with three more legends of the game: Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers. While in Oakland, he also played for one of the eras most successful managers (Dick Williams) and perhaps its most controversial owner (Charlie Finley).
Just when his career seemed at a standstill, the American League adopted the designated hitter rule, made-to-order for Cepedas brittle knees. The Boston Red Sox signed him specifically for DH duty, allowing him to play a full season with the likes of Luis Aparicio, Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk. The following year, a surprising spring training release led to his final major league stopthe Kansas City Royals. Just as Cepeda was saying good-bye to the game, he was also saying hello to a player named George Brett, a rookie third baseman struggling to find his way with the Royals.
Given Cepedas itinerant career, hes likely to see many familiar faces in Cooperstown this summer, when he returns to the area for his official induction into the Hall of Fame. Cepeda, Brett, and the five other members of the highly impressive class of 1999 will enter the Hall on Sunday, July 25. The Induction Ceremonies will begin at 2:30 PM at the Clark Sports Center on Susquehanna Avenue.
Bruce Markusen is a Senior Researcher at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the author of a young adult book entitled The Orlando Cepeda Story, available from Arte Publico Press.
Catchers: Carlton Fisk, Tim McCarver
Infielders: Willie McCovey (1b), Julian Javier (2b), Luis Aparicio (ss), George Brett
Outfielders: Lou Brock (lf), Willie Mays (cf), Hank Aaron (rf)
DHs: Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski
Starting Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Catfish Hunter, Juan Marichal, Phil Niekro,
Pitchers: Gaylord Perry
Bruce Markusen is the author of A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finleys Swingin As.