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Jun 29, 2024 1:02 am

Orlando Cepeda, unanimous NL MVP in 1967, dies at 86

Orlando Cepeda

Hall of Fame first baseman Orlando Cepeda, who was the unanimous National League Most Valuable Player winner in 1967 as he led the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series championship, died Friday at age 86.

The announcement came from the San Francisco Giants, for whom Cepeda played the first nine seasons of his 17-year career, which began in 1958. The Giants held a moment of silence before the sixth inning of Friday’s 5-3 win against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.

Cepeda clubbed 379 home runs, drove in 1,365 runs and hit .297 with an OPS of .849 while playing primarily for the Giants, Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, before finishing with the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals.

Cepeda, a native of Puerto Rico, won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1958, the Giants’ first season in San Francisco after leaving New York City’s Polo Grounds. He hit .312 with 25 homers, 96 RBIs and an NL-best 38 doubles in 148 games.

Teammate Willie Mays said of Cepeda’s rookie season, “He is annoying every pitcher in the league. He is strong, he hits to all fields and he makes all the plays. He’s the most relaxed first-year man I ever saw.”

Cepeda’s passing came just 10 days after Mays died on June 18.

Cepeda finished as MVP runner-up in 1961, when he slugged a league-high 46 home runs and a major-league-leading 142 RBIs. He also was an 11-time All-Star, with eight of those honors coming in four consecutive seasons (1959-62) when the majors had two such games.

Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said in a statement, “This is truly a sad day for the San Francisco Giants. For all of Orlando’s extraordinary baseball accomplishments, it was his generosity, kindness and joy that defined him. No one loved the game more.”

Cepeda played only 33 games in 1965 and 19 early in 1966 due to injuries, and in the meantime, Willie McCovey settled in as the Giants’ first baseman. Cepeda asked to be traded and was dealt on May 8, 1966, to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ray Sadecki.

The Cardinals won 101 games in 1967 and the World Series title in seven games over the Boston Red Sox. St. Louis returned to the World Series the following season but lost in seven games to the Detroit Tigers.

Cepeda was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999.

–Field Level Media

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