Saturday, April 20, 2013

20 - Orlando Cepeda - 1967's MVP and a steal for the Cardinals

 Here is a player I did get familiar with as a kid because his card was listed as being above common value in Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, I had doubles of it and kept the double with my regular collection which I thumbed through regularly and because his stats on the back were incredible. Cepeda was an offensive powerhouse for the Giants. This is clear on the stats on the back. What is also clear is the fact that he lost almost a thw qhole 1965 season (turns out , due to a knee injury he had in '63). I'll link to his biography and just say the Giants gave him away for a good, not great starting pitcher. Ray Sadecki was a 20 game winner and the Giants probably thought they were getting a deal until Cepeda fully recovered from his knee injury and was the 1967 NL MVP for the World Champion St Louis Cardinals. Hindsight is always 20/20 and the Reds probably couldn't live down doing a similar trade when they gave up Frank Robinson who was the 1966 AL MVP for the World Champion Orioles.

I liked the Cardinal cards mostly because I knew a lot of the players from the team. Curt Flood, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver. These are common names for any baseball fan. This card also has an atypical photo of a player. Instead of posing or smiling, Cepeda looks annoyed at a distraction over his shoulder. There is a policeman next to him and it looks like someone is throwing something in the background. This picture actually has action in it! This wasn't normal in Topps cards of the era.

The stadium looks to be Shea in New York. You'll find most of the cards taken in large stadiums are either Shea or Yankee Stadium because Topps was (and still is) based in New York City.

I always considered this to be one of my more valuable cards because it was a double and it looked to be worth bragging about in the cafeteria in the fourth and fifth grades which I did.

Much of what there is to be said about Cepeda is on the Wikipedia page I linked to (I think you can trust the site when it comes to athletes). Cepeda was, during his peak part of a fiercesome Giants lineup which also had McCovey and Mays. The Giants were thin on pitching in those days but the team still made a mad dash for the World Championship in 1962 by winning the NL pennant but falling just short to the Yankees in seven games. That was the last World Series championship for the Yankees for the next 15 years and the last time the Giants would appear in a World Series for the next 27 and it would be an additional 21 seasons before they finally won a World Series in San Francisco. Trades like the Cepeda for Sadecki didn't help to shorten that time either.

Cepeda was never as good as he was with the Giants but he was still a great hitter who was the star slugger for the '67 Cards with 25 home runs and leading the league with 111 RBI's and had a .325 average. These numbers don't sound like much but this was before the pitching mounds were lowered because the offensive production numbers were plummeting around the league. 1967 and 1968 were the Majors new dead ball era.

Cepeda's average dropped off but his power numbers remained high as well as his games played and fielding percentage. He was staying healthy and getting the job done. He continued this with the Braves up until the injuries lurked back in '71 and '72. He had one more solid year in '73 before retiring in '74 at the age of 37.

Cepeda wasn't in the Hall when I was a kid and a major baseball fan but he did make it in via the Veterans Committee in 1999. I always knew his stats on the back of his '67 card were too awesome to ignore.

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