A Vote for Character
With the announcement of the 1994 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame scheduled for Jan. 12, SI senior writer Ron Fimrite casts a vote for a perennially snubbed star.
In a letter to voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, San Francisco Giant president Peter Magowan apologized for his excessive zeal in championing the Hall of Fame candidacy of Orlando Cepeda. No apology is necessary. Though Cepeda has been overlooked in the 15 years he has been eligible for the Hall, Cha-Cha belongs there. And if he doesn't make it in this, his last chance with the writers, a grave injustice will have been perpetrated.
His record speaks for itself: Rookie of the Year in 1958, Comeback Player of the Year in 1966, National League MVP in 1967. Of the 18 eligible retired players who hit more than 300 homers and had a career batting average of better than .295, Cepeda is the only one not in the Hall.
What may have kept him out is a 1975 conviction for smuggling marijuana into his native Puerto Rico. He served 10 months in federal prison for that offense and suffered the even greater penalty of ostracism in his home island, a place where his father, Pedro, was a baseball icon. Orlando has since repaid his debt to society by leading a life of extraordinary good works. Unlike so many other former stars who accept "community service" sinecures with their old teams, Cepeda has given the Giants more than they could conceivably have bargained for. There is scarcely a charity in northern California that he is not involved with, his work with kids at baseball schools is exemplary, and his antidrug crusade among urban youth in San Francisco is in itself deserving of an award.
His good deeds have restored his good name in Puerto Rico, where last October he was inducted into the island's sports hall of fame. So when the writers announce the newest inductees into Cooperstown this month, we can only hope that Cepeda's name will be among them. One thing is certain: If character is still a consideration, he should make it with ease.
An Honest Man
Whatever one thinks of Eduardo Viana, president of the Rio Soccer Federation, the Brazilian has to be given points for candor. Public demands to look into the alleged fixing of national championship games have not swayed Viana to open an investigation. Said Viana: "I detest public opinion. The people could all be shot by machine guns, for all I care. I'm the son of a factory owner, the elite, and I'm a right-winger."
Do not be surprised if a virtual unknown is the next commissioner of baseball. Northwestern University president Arnold Weber has a r�sum� that appeals to Major League Baseball owners, who have been searching for 16 months for a commissioner. Weber is an economist with expertise in labor relations. And there is no issue more pressing to the owners than working out a new labor agreement with the Players Association that includes a revised salary structure.
A search committee will present a candidate to the 28 owners—affirmative votes from 21 are needed to elect a commissioner—at their meetings on Jan. 19 in Fort Lauderdale, and the best guess is that Weber will be that man. Still in the running, however, is U.S. Olympic Committee executive director Harvey Schiller. Neither candidate would comment. "The search committee has let everyone know that talking is the death of his candidacy." said one source.