Orlando Cepeda, Hall of Fame member and 1967 National League Most Valuable Player, dies at age 86

SAN FRANCISCO — Orlando Cepeda, the first base hitter nicknamed “Baby Bull” who became a Hall of Fame member among the first Puerto Ricans to shine in the Major Leagues, has died. He was 86 years old.

The San Francisco Giants and his family announced the death Friday night and a moment of silence was held on the scoreboard at Oracle Park midway through a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Our beloved Orlando passed away peacefully at home this afternoon, listening to his favorite music and surrounded by his loved ones,” his wife, Nydia, said in a statement released through the team. “We take comfort in knowing that he is at peace.”

Cepeda was a regular at Giants home games during the 2017 season until he dealt with some health issues. He was hospitalized in the Bay Area in February 2018 following a heart issue.

One of the first Puerto Rican stars in the majors, but limited by knee problems, he became Boston’s first designated hitter and credits his time as a DH for his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1999, selected by the Veterans Committee.

When the Red Sox called Cepeda in December 1972 to ask if he would like to be their first designated hitter, the out-of-work player immediately accepted.

Cepeda was an 11-time All-Star and played 17 seasons for six MLB teams. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1958 with the Giants, for whom he played his first nine seasons, and the NL Most Valuable Player Award with the Cardinals in 1967, when he hit a career-high .325 with 25 home runs and 111 RBIs.

He had a career .297 batting average with 379 home runs and 1,365 RBI.

Cepeda is one of only two players in National League history to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player unanimously, along with Albert Pujols, who won Rookie of the Year in 2001 and Most Valuable Player in 2009.

Cepeda was a certain member of the Hall of Fame until his arrest in 1975, a year after his retirement after a 17-season career, on charges of marijuana possession, for which he served nine months in prison.

His election to the Hall of Fame in 1999 came 20 years after he was first eligible.

“I can’t complain,” Cepeda told the Los Angeles Times in a 1985 interview. “I’ve lived through the good times. I’ve lived through the bad times. Not many people get to try that.”

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.

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