Saturday, October 7, 2017

Final Card - Bill Virdon

Here is the final card for long-time Pirates' center fielder Bill Virdon (#69).

Although mostly known as Pirate, Virdon was signed by the Yankees in 1950, and began his major-league career in 1955 with the Cardinals (having been traded for Enos Slaughter). Bill hit .281 in 144 games and won the Rookie of the Year award in 1955.

After 2 full seasons with the Cards, Virdon was traded to the Pirates in May 1956 for pitcher Dick Litlefield and outfielder Bobby Del Greco. (Whaaaaat? I never heard of Littlefield, but his record seems to indicate he was a journeyman starter/reliever whose career was winding down, and Del Greco was a young outfielder, but only progressed to so-so role player for bad teams like the Phillies and Athletics.)

Meanwhile, Virdon put in 10 solid seasons as the Pirates' every-day center fielder, playing alongside Roberto Clemente every year.

Virdon retired after the 1965 season, and became a coach for the Pirates. During the 1968 season he was activated for 6 games in July. One of our fellow bloggers has made a custom card documenting Virdon's 1968 season, which can be found in this collection of 1968 custom cards.

Bill also managed 4 teams, beginning in 1972. He manage the Pirates in '72 and '73. They won the NL East but lost the NLCS to the Reds. The following season he was replaced by 4-time Pirates' manager Danny Murtaugh in the final month. He moved on to the Yankees for 1974 and the first 100 games of 1975, until meeting the fate of many Yankee managers.

His longest managerial stint was wit the Astros. Hired in the final weeks of the '75 season, he stayed on until midway through 1982.  Along the way, his team won the NL West in 1980 (losing to the Phillies) and won the second half of the strike-split 1981 season, losing to the Dodgers in the playoffs.

Virdon's final manager job was with the Montreal Expos (1983-84). Since then, he coached off-and-on for the Pirates, and more recently is a spring training instructor for the Pirates.


  1. Bill is known as one of the most physically fit men to play the game. Even today he can still do training duties in Pirate camp. I don't know exactly how old he is, but I'm 58 and only vaguely recall his few games with the Pirates in 1968. Oh and btw...the split-season strike season was 1981.

  2. Virdon is 86. He was the oldest living player from 1965-70 that I had not blogged about yet.

    Frank Bolling (my next subject) is 85, and everyone else is 80 or less.

  3. I have corrected my typo. Virdon's Astros finished 1st in the NL West in 1980, and again in the second half of 1981, the split-season.

  4. Virdon played only one full season in t. Louis, won the ROY and then was dealt the following May as you have noted, for pretty much nothing. Frank "Trader" Lane moved an unbelievable number of Cardinals in 1956 including old favorite Red Schoendienst because he wanted to clear a spot for Don Blasingame.) It is said that, the follwing season, he wanted to deal Stan Musial to the Phillies for Robin Roberts, but Gussie Busch nixed the idea. Virdon was not the only valuable young outfielder Lane dealt in mid-'56...he also traded away Jackie Brandt to the Giants.