This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda was a 7 time All Star, Rookie of the Year with the Giants and MVP with the Cardinals. Cepeda hit over 350 home runs with the Giants, Cardinals and Braves before he arrived in Boston in 1973. He had a three game tour with the Oakland Athletics in 1972, but didn’t record a hit in his three at bats. Cepeda had planned on retiring after the 1972 season, but the addition of the Designated Hitter to the American League changed all that.
It’s fitting that we’re celebrating Orlando Cepeda’s birthday only 2 days after David Ortiz set the all time record for most home runs as Designated Hitter. The 1973 season saw the addition of the DH to lineups throughout the American League and Orlando Cepeda was the first player to sign a contract to play solely as designated hitter.
In a season where the Red Sox were 8 games out of first place, Cepeda provided some highlights with a 20 HR season as the first Red Sox DH. At 36 years old, Cepeda’s role as designated hitter revitalized his career, if only for another season or two. Cepeda signed on with the Kansas City Royals during the 1974 season, but he did not have the same success that he found in the magical 1973 season.
For his performance as the first Designated Hitter with the Boston Red Sox, and an overall great Hall of Fame career, Happy 72nd Birthday, Orlando Cepeda!