That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary: A One on One with Orlando Cepeda

Former San Francisco Giant first baseman and Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda the subject of Amaury Pi Gonzalez’ interview on That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary (file photo

A One on One with Orlando Cepeda

That’s Amaury News and Commentary

By Amaury Pi-González

On the eve of the 2021 baseball season, I had the pleasure of speaking over the phone with the great Cha Cha, Orlando Cepeda, somebody I have not seen or spoken with in a few years. Through the years we have spoken numerous times.

During the 1990’s working Giants Spanish radio at Candlestick and later at ATT, SBC, PAC BELL Park. He used to come around and we would talk. On some occasions he sat with me during a radio broadcast and did some commentary. Orlando was one of the first Major League Players who endorsed The Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame when it was founded in 1999 in San Francisco.

He is enshrined in that Hall of Fame as well as in The National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. He won the rookie of the year with the San Francisco Giants in 1958, the Most Valuable Player of the National League in 1967 with the St Louis Cardinals.

He was one of the most popular players ever to wear a San Francisco Giants uniform. The interview was conducted in Spanish, Orlando born in Ponce, Puerto Rico always prefer to speak Spanish when we talk. In our chat we talked about the day when the Giants retired his number 30 prior to a game in Candlestick Park against the St Louis Cardinals in 1999, a ceremony on the field with Giants announcer Lon Simmons, yours truly who was asked by the Giants to be the co-mc with Simmons, Jack Buck, radio voice of the St. Louis Cardinals and the owner of the Giants Peter Magowan.

We were all on the field between home plate and the mound, lined-up behind a podium. Towards the end of the ceremony a big Number 30 was unveiled in front of the fence in right-center field as the fans stood-up and cheered. I asked Orlando about that moment, responded right away.

Orlando: “Yes, of course I remember and I also remember that Mr. Magowan told me “now Orlando the next step for you is the Hall of Fame” and that helped me a lot. Soon I was in the Hall of Fame. He was a great owner…Magowan loved the game, very committed owner and that was a great honor for me that the Giants retired number “30”.

Orlando was in good spirits. We reminisced about some of the great points in his career. Like the people who saw him play in San Francisco and remember him playing with the Giants in 1958, his very first year in the majors. Is it true that in 1958 you were more popular than the great Willie Mays in San Francisco?

Orlando: ”Well, what happened is that I was a rookie; it was a new team for me. Willie came from New York, and I did very well that year, you know, people liked me in San Francisco. Willie is the greatest ballplayer ever, but good things happened to me that year, and when that happens and the people like you…also I had a good year…and that’s what happened”.

(That year he won the Rookie of the Year hitting .312 with 25 home runs and 96 runs batted-in) In 1967 Orlando was traded to the St Louis Cardinals from pitcher Ray Sadecki. Were you happy when that trade happened?

Orlando: “Well, I had problems with Herman Franks (Giants manager) and it was going to be me or McCovey who was going to be traded”

About his arrival in St Louis? Orlando responded

Orlando: “I had a great welcome there, the guys like Gibson, McCarver, and Brock they all welcome me and treated me very well”

At one the time in the interview, there was a moment when even before I asked the next question, he said something about five Puerto Ricans in the Hall of Fame. And that is true. Puerto Ricans like Roberto Clemente, Iván Rodríguez, and Roberto Alomar and soon to be Edgar Martínez who was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, moved to the island to live with his grandmother, he said: Orlando followed…

Orlando: “Yes, great…we have five Puerto Ricans now in the Hall of Fame, that’s great, I am very proud of that”.

How about your relation with your compatriot Roberto Clemente?

Orlando: “When I first played with the Giants, Roberto was already playing (since 1955) with the Pirates, Roberto helped me a lot, he was a great guy”

I asked him about what does he thinks about the recent changes in the game of baseball, many with the purpose of making the game faster

Orlando: “Well, a lot of people making these changes never played the game, they are not baseball people, they are computer and business people and all that, but not real baseball people”.

Orlando’s opinion is a common one for older players who had to do everything to win a game, including bunting, hit and run and other stuff that today is well…cancelled in baseball? Orlando was getting a little tired, and he said:

Orlando: “I am speaking too fast, too much”

He seemed to be a little short of breath, so we paused. Then… after a few seconds. We spoke about Opening Day in baseball this April 1.

Orlando: “I am hoping to be at the Giants first game at home April 9”

He said as we said goodbye mutually wished each other well and told me he send his best wishes to everybody. A couple of years ago Orlando had a cardiac incident and spent some time in the hospital. However he made a public appearance in January 2018 to celebrate the 80th birthday of Willie McCovey at AT&T Park.

Gracious, passionate and always ready to talk baseball, it was fun to talk for about 15 minutes, not more, but he seemed alert and with very good memory of some of the events we spoke about in his very stellar career. Other stuff we touch bases, like, he doesn’t agree much with some of the changes in the game today, although he did say at the end of his career the DH rule helped him, he played in 1973 (next to his last year) with the Boston Red Sox, as he said “I was one of the first designated hitters”.

1973 was the first year for the DH rule, Orlando seems to be fine with that, but not with some of the recent changes in the game as previous stated.

Muchas gracias al gran Orlando Cepeda por su cortesía de concederme esta entrevista por la vía telefónica, sigues siendo el mismo Cha Cha, que Dios te Bendiga. Translation “Thanks to the great Orlando Cepeda for his courtesy granting me this interview over the phone, your still the same Cha Cha, may God Bless You.

Stay well and stay tuned

Amaury Pi Gonzalez is the vice president and Orlando Cepeda is a founder of the Major League Baseball Hispanic Heritage Hall of Fame Museum and does News and Commentary at

That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary: Jackie Robinson Legacy is International

Jackie Robinson who broke the color line in Major League Baseball in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers takes a swing at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn ( file photo)

Jackie Robinson Legacy is International

That’s Amaury News and Commentary

Amaury Pi-González

April 15,2020 marks the 73rd Anniversary of Jackie Robinson as the first African-American player in MLB,with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. His legacy and career was honored and his uniform number 42 retired by Major League Baseball by Commissioner Bud Selig 33 years ago on April 15,1997.

Robinson’s #42 was the first and only number retired by all MLB 30 teams. Generally people focus on African Americans who followed Robinson into baseball,but the great pioneer also opened the door for Black Latino players.

Jackie Robinson’s legacy goes beyond US borders.  Because of Robinson, Latino players of dark skin were also able to come and play in the big leagues with their American brothers.

Today almost 33 percent of all players in MLB are born in Latin America(higher percentage in the minor leagues)and after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier,some great Latino black players,like Cuban-born Orestes(Minnie) Miñoso who signed as a rookie in 1949 with the Cleveland Indians, before becoming the last player in baseball history to play for five (50 years) different decades.

Minnie played from 1949 until 1980. The Cuban-born Miñoso was the first unquestionable black Latin American in the major leagues, although some others with some black ancestry had played in MLB. By early 1950’s other Latino’s of black skin included, Luis Márquez(Puerto Rico)signed by the Boston Braves and Cuban catcher Rafael(Ray)Noble with the New York Giants as well as Ozzie Virgil Sr.from the Dominican Republic.

According to SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) in 1947; 98.3 perfect of players were white,0.9 percent African-American, 0.7 percent Latinos and 0.0 percent Asian. Decades later, especially in the mid 1950’s the great Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico) and 1960’s many more came from Latin America, like Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Manny Mota, Felipe, Jesús and Mateo Alou, Tony Oliva, Luis Tiant, Leonardo(Leo) Cárdenas, Tony González, Francisco(Panchón)Herrera, José Cardenal, Dagoberto(Campy)Campaneris and more not mentioned.

Some of these Latino players are remembered with statues in the cities where they played,the one and only Roberto Clemente not only with a Statue at PNC Park but with the Roberto Clemente Bridge in downtown Pittsburgh over the Allegheny River.

Today all baseball fans around the world honor the great #42 Jackie Robinson,because he is also a historic figure in countries like Cuba, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Panamá, Puerto Rico, México,Nicaragua,Venezuela, Jamaica and all countries where baseball is a major sport, not to mention in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

“I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect” -Jackie Robinson.

Amaury Pi Gonzalez is the vice president of the Major League Baseball Hispanic Heritage Museum and does News and Commentary each week at