Perucho Cepeda was Puerto Rico’s most popular player and the father to a Hall of Famer
By Kimberly McCray
Pedro Cepeda, affectionately known as “Perucho” or “The Bull,” was not only father to a great ballplayer, Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, but was a baseball star himself.
Born in Puerto Rico in 1905 or 1906, (sources disagree on which year), Perucho was a stellar Caribbean player who played professional baseball from 1938 to 1950 after years of amateur play. For most of the 13 years of his professional career, Cepeda was a superstar who was regularly called “The Babe Ruth of Puerto Rico,” a nickname he earned not because of his home run hitting prowess, but because he was by all accounts the best and most popular player in the country, just as Ruth was in the United States.
Although complete statistics from several of Cepeda’s early years do not exist, surviving records tell the tale of a baseball great. In the 1938-39 and 1939-1940 seasons, Cepeda won back-to-back batting titles with averages of .465 and .383, respectively. In 1940-41 Perucho did not win the title, but finished third with an average of .421, beating out future Hall of Famers like Roy Campanella, Buck Leonard and Monte Irvin in batting and leading the league in RBI with 47.
Primarily a shortstop, Cepeda was known for having a strong arm that made up for his lack of the traditional shortstop’s speed and range. It was only later in his career that Perucho moved to first base, where he played out the twilight of his career. During these final years, Cepeda’s play suffered noticeably, no doubt in great part due to the fact that from 1942 until the end of his career he worked full-time for the San Juan Water Department, only playing baseball on the side during part of the year to earn extra income.
Cepeda’s son, Orlando, debuted in the big leagues in 1958 with the San Francisco Giants, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Orlando Cepeda went on to win the 1967 NL Most Valuable Player Award and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999 following a 17-year big league career where he hit .297 with 379 home runs.
Kimberly McCray was the 2012 library-recorded media intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development.
For information on how to apply for the Class of 2013 Steele Internship Program, click here