Thursday, May 07, 2009

#69 Bill Virdon

It's funny that Bill Virdon is today's player. I'm currently reading Summer of '49 by the late, great David Halberstam. This afternoon I was reading about Joe DiMaggio's younger brother Dominic, a very talented center fielder in his own right who had to overcome institutional prejudices about bespectacled players. It was assumed in the 1930s that if you wore glasses, you couldn't see the ball to hit it. Decades later, we still see very few four-eyed position players in this 1965 set.

Fun facts about Bill Virdon:

-A native Michigander (I don't think that's a real term), he signed with the Yankees as a teenager in 1950, but was traded to the Cardinals for Enos Slaughter in 1954.

-After batting an International-League best .333 with the Rochester Red Wings in 1954, won the National League Rookie of the Year the following season (.281, career-best 17 HR and 68 RBI).

-After getting off to a slow start in 1956 (.211 in 24 games), was traded to Pittsburgh, where he hit .334 for the rest of the season.

-Was renowned as one of the better defensive center fielders of his time; even managed to wrestle one Gold Glove away from Curt Flood (1962).

-Hit three doubles and drove in five runs in the Pirates' seven-game World Series victory over the Yankees in 1960. It was his bad-hop ground ball in the decisive game that knocked New York shortstop Tony Kubek out of the game and sparked a five-run rally.

-Was remarkably consistent throughout his ten years in Pittsburgh, hitting between .243 and .269 for an eight-season span before batting .279 in 1965, his final full season.

-Led the N.L. with 10 triples in 1962, one of four seasons in which he reached double figures in three-baggers.

-After two years of managing in the Mets farm system (1966-1967), he returned to the Pirates as a coach and played in six games, tacking one hit in three at-bats onto his career totals to retire for good with a career .267 average.

-Spent thirteen seasons as a big league manager with the Pirates, Yankees, Astros, and Expos. He was twice named Manager of the Year (1974 and 1980), and was fired once by George Steinbrenner, which is a badge of honor.

-Bill lives in Springfield, MO and still serves as a special outfield instructor for the Pirates every spring.
#69 Bill Virdon (back)


  1. Virdon is from right here where I live in West Plains, MO. (about 100 miles from Springfield where he currently lives. If you have any extra Virdon's I would love to trade somerthing to you for them.

  2. Oddly, Dom DiMaggio died today at age 92. RIP Lil' Professor.

  3. Adam - Small world! I might have another Virdon card in my collection. I'll let you know.

    Max - I heard that this morning. What a sad coincidence.

  4. One of my very favorite baseball people. Underrated as a player AND as a manager. I was able to talk to him a few times when he was here as the Astros manager. He was very gracious. I'm happy to know he is still active in the game.

  5. Bob - He looks like a nice guy. It's good to know that you can judge some books by their covers!

  6. I have Springfield cardinals seats about 5 rows from him on the same aisle. He attends regularly and is a very nice person. We talk about his Pirates beating my Yankees in 1960. ( they were very lucky) LOL. But he was a premier center fielder. Very nice guy. It's a privelage being able to talk with him . David B. Springfield, Missouri