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Why Orlando Cepeda Was Ecstatic the Day He Went Hitless Five Times

Harold FriendChief Writer IAugust 4, 2010

1986:  Former San Francisco Giant player Orlando Cepeda '58-'66, looks on from the dugout during the 1986 season. (Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Orlando Cepeda played in three World Series. The first was in 1962 against New York's other team, the New York Yankees.

It was not a good series for Cepeda or for the San Francisco Giants.

New York Yankees' manager Ralph Houk and right-handed pitcher Ralph Terry agreed that Terry would face left-hand hitting Willie McCovey in the ninth inning of the seventh game with the potential tying run on third and the potential winning run on second.

Right-handed slugger Orlando Cepeda was on deck.

The percentage move would have been to face Cepeda, since he hit from the right side, but Houk went against the book and won.  Houk took more of a gamble than many realized.

Neither McCovey nor Cepeda had hit much in the Series.

When Willie stepped in against Terry, he had three hits in 14 at bats for a .214 average, but he had hit a triple in the game, and he had one home run in the Series.

Cepeda was three for 19 (.158). His only extra base hit had been a double in the sixth game.

The move was to face Cepeda, but maybe Houk took Orlando's sixth game performance into account.

"That sixth game was a good one for me and the Giants," Cepeda told baseball writer George Vass in a 1970 interview.

"I got a double and drove in a run....I also drove in another run with a single later in the game, which we won, 5-2."

Orlando continued, and his statement revealed why he was a great player, a great teammate, and a great leader.

"I got three hits in that game so maybe I should think of it as the Series game most important to me, but I don't. It was a good game for me, but then we lost the Series the next day, so it did not mean anything big."

Orlando Cepeda would wait until 1967, when he was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, to play in the game he would never forget.

The Giants foolishly traded Orlando to the Cards on May 8, 1966 for left-hander Ray Sadecki.

It was a horrible trade, as Sadecki won only three games, lost seven, and had an obscene ERA+ of 69.

He was 12-6 the next year, but in 1968, the "Year of the Pitcher", Sadecki led the National League with 18 losses, despite a respectable 106 ERA+.

Meanwhile, Cepeda, who had fully recovered from a knee operation, which led to the trade, helped lead the Cardinals to the 1967 pennant, batting .303, hitting 25 home runs, and leading the league with 111 RBIs.

The Boston Red Sox, who had finished ninth in 1966, were the American League champions. The Sox, led by pitcher Jim Lonborg and the great Carl Yastrezemki, gave the Cardinals all they could handle.

Lonborg started the seventh game on two days rest against the Cardinals' Bob Gibson. The Sox didn't stand a chance, as Gibson limited them to three hits, while striking out 10, in a 7-2 Cardinals' victory.

1967 was an important year for Orlando Cepeda, but as Orlando said, it was a more important year for the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I feel real proud about that year. It is not only because I won the Most Valuable Player Award—and got all the votes—but because it was a year in which the team won the championship."

Cepeda considers the game the most memorable of his career. The reason he gives provides the insight to a winner.

"You might look at the box score and wonder why I pick that one. It shows I got no hits and was at bat five times. I'll tell you why that seventh game is the one I'll never forget. It is because we won it.



Reference:

Cepeda, Orlando as told to George Vass. "The Game I'll Never Forget. Baseball Digest , Oct. 1970, p. 27.

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