SAN FRANCISCO -- The gentleman looked a trifle thinner, but his genial nature, warm smile and the Giants cap he wore left no doubt that this was Orlando Cepeda, who remains widely adored.Thursday, the Hall of Fame first baseman visited AT&T Park for the first time this season, giving him
SAN FRANCISCO -- The gentleman looked a trifle thinner, but his genial nature, warm smile and the Giants cap he wore left no doubt that this was Orlando Cepeda, who remains widely adored.
Thursday, the Hall of Fame first baseman visited AT&T Park for the first time this season, giving him the opportunity to see the teams he's identified with the most. Cepeda played for six clubs, but he's particularly known for excelling with the Giants, the club that brought him to the Majors in 1958, and the Cardinals, who relied heavily upon him to win the World Series in 1967, when he was named the National League's Most Valuable Player.
On Feb. 19, Cepeda sustained a head injury resulting from a fall near his home in Fairfield, Calif. It was then reported that Cepeda, 80, had experienced a cardiac-related incident. On Thursday, Cepeda's son, Ali, confirmed that his father suffered a stroke.
But Cepeda survived, buoyed by a legion of supportive relatives and friends. "He's a fighter," Ali Cepeda said.
Among those who helped Cepeda win the battle was Juan Marichal, Cepeda's Giants teammate and longtime friend. Marichal happened to be visiting the Bay Area when Cepeda was stricken, since they were scheduled to receive a sports-related award together. In the early days of Cepeda's illness, Marichal remained by his bedside and repeated doctors' commands, such as "Wiggle your toes."
Able again to watch the game he loves in person, Cepeda's thoughts turned to those who prayed for him to be in this position.
"In that situation, you come close to going the other way," Cepeda said. "It's amazing to see the people who love you."
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.