Orlando Cepeda

Cepeda's death deals Giants another ‘gut punch' after loss of Mays

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SAN FRANCISCO -- For the second time in 11 days, Giants pitcher Logan Webb took the mound in the middle of a start, looked up at the scoreboard, and found that he needed a moment to compose himself.

Webb was the one pitching at Wrigley Field when it was announced that Willie Mays had passed away, and on Friday, the Giants organization lost another legend. Orlando Cepeda, a Hall of Famer who broke into the big leagues hitting two spots behind Mays in a loaded lineup, passed away peacefully at his home Friday evening. The Giants announced it in the middle of a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, as Webb was warming up to start an inning at Oracle Park. 

"It was tough," he said. "When I first saw it I was like, man, the same sort of situation. It's been a tough month for Giants baseball losing guys like this and losing special people important to the Giants. It was tough."

It has been a painful month for the organization, which already was planning to celebrate Mays at Oracle Park on July 8. The Giants took the field Friday with "24" patches on their jerseys, and as players celebrated the win, Brad Grems, the team's senior manager of the home clubhouse and equipment, was busy ironing "30" onto every jersey the team will wear Saturday night. 

"What another gut punch," manager Bob Melvin said. "Another incredible personality. He is beloved here and has a statue upfront. I mean, the numbers he put up, there are a lot of legends here and he was certainly right in the middle of that. To have it so close in proximity to Willie, it's kind of staggering."

The Giants were not able to put smiles back on faces in the days following Mays' death. They lost every game on the rest of the road trip, even the one at Rickwood Field, which Melvin managed like a late-September matchup with the playoffs on the line. It wasn't until Monday, when they all wore No. 24, that they finally got back in the win column, but on Friday, they at least were able to follow the sad news with some joy.

Brett Wisely hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth, the third of the night for a lineup that suddenly looks much deeper. Webb did the rest, allowing two runs over seven innings against a Dodgers team that hammered him on the year's opening road trip. In two starts against them since, he has given up just two runs in 13 innings. 

Friday's performance came with an added bonus for Webb, who once again leads the National League in innings, a potential tiebreaker in a tight MLB All-Star race. He had his best velocity of the 2024 MLB season early on and hit 95.5 mph in the first inning. That was his fastest pitch since 2021. He certainly noticed. 

"I finally got my 95 -- a true 95," Webb said, smiling. "I couldn't tell you [where that came from], but I feel like lately I've been feeling better. The mechanics have been better. It's been kind of a grind, and I feel like early on my mechanics were off. You saw my spring training; it wasn't very good. I think I'm finally kind of finding a groove and finding the right mechanics and everything. Hopefully it keeps going up."

It was a good night in the box score, but still a tough one for Webb, one of the few Giants who has been around long enough to have met Mays and Cepeda. In a way, though, it was appropriate that he was the one to be standing in the spotlight when the announcement was made. 

Cepeda played nine seasons for the Giants and still ranks among their San Francisco-era leaders in home runs, RBI and hits. His 142 RBI in 1961 remain the high mark since the Giants moved West, and even though he finished his career elsewhere, he was so successful and beloved that it was a no-brainer to put his statue outside the ballpark's entrance on 2nd Street. It's a few paces from one celebrating Gaylord Perry. 

In recent years, the Giants have been about turnover. Wisely was the end result of a shrewd set of moves by the front office. Matt Chapman, who gave the Giants a short-lived lead, is in his first year in orange and black. 

Webb, though, is in Year 6. He is the best bet on this roster to hit double-digit seasons with the Giants and have the kind of longevity and resume that one day could put him in conversations with the organization's greats. Long before they were ironed onto jerseys, Nos. 24 and 30 were retired for good by the organization. It's possible that 62 gets there one day, too. 

Webb is well on his way to being the one who returns and sits in a suite to watch the Giants, as Cepeda did so often. The Giants love their legends, and for good reason. They have lost two this month, but like Mays, Cepeda left an impact. 

"He couldn't be nicer to anybody who was here as a Giant," Melvin said. "I even met him when I was really young as a kid. He was just one of those guys that was so great with kids and had a smile on his face all the time. You feel like he's your friend. Again, another one, so it's really tough."

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