Cepeda statue hits a grand slam

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By A.J. Hayes

While some fans and media members quietly grumbled about the non-slugging stance William Behrends chose for his statue depicting the legendary Orlando Cepeda, I think these nascent art critics are missing the brilliant subtlety of the sculptor’s towering piece.

While the nine-foot tall statute – unveiled this past weekend at the Giants China Basin home — fails to glorify Cepeda wielding a bat, Behrends work depicts exactly how Cepeda has chosen to lead his life: standing tall, head held high and never kneeling to adversity.

Cepeda was the first superstar to debut as a San Francisco Giant. He sizzled his first big-league home run in the first major league game ever played in the city and went on to win 1958 Rookie of the Year honors. In 1962, he led the Giants to their first West Coast world series.

The youthful slugger and gregarious man-about-town was arguably the Giants most popular player during the club’s first half-dozen seasons in San Francisco, before a boneheaded trade sent him out of town.

But Cha-Cha has not been without his demons. He served time in a federal penitentiary on a drug smuggling conviction in the mid-1970s, and last year he was arrested after police in Fairfield said they found drug paraphernalia in his automobile. After a lengthy process that dragged his name through the mud, Cepeda was exonerated of the charges.