Bill Virdon, silent manager of four MLB teams, dies at 90

Bill Virdon was one of the most fluid midfielders in the big leagues of the 1950s and early 1960s. He led four teams, winning division c...

Bill Virdon was one of the most fluid midfielders in the big leagues of the 1950s and early 1960s. He led four teams, winning division championships with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros and bringing a surprising Yankees team to the brink of a. But most remember him for hitting a seemingly routine ground ball that was anything but: it set the Pirates on course for a spectacular Game 7 victory over the Yankees in the 1960 World Series.

Often described as “with glasses,” given the relative rarity of baseball players with glasses, Virdon, who died at age 90 on Tuesday, was the National League Rookie of the Year with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955, but spent most of his career with the Pirates. , playing alongside future Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente.

The pirates announced Virdon’s death, in Springfield, Missouri.

Bill Mazeroski’s home run won the Pirates the 1960 World Series championship. But Virdon played an important role in that decisive match at Forbes Field as the recipient of a bad hop. The Pirates were trailing three runs in the eighth inning with a runner in the front row and no one on the outside when Virdon, a left-handed hitter, hit a ground ball to shortstop left-hander Bobby Shantz’s Tony Kubek.

“Shantz was tough on left-handed hitters, and he was tough on me, so I didn’t like facing him,” Virdon told Victor Debs Jr. for oral history “It was part of baseball back then ”(2002). “But he hooked up a curve ball, and I hit him hard, but that was right in Kubek. I was like, ‘Uh-oh, perfect double ball play.’ “

However, the baseball bounced back as Kubek was about to trap it, hitting him in the throat. He scored a single and Pittsburgh had runners in the first and second row.

The Pirates have scored five runs this set, including a decisive three-run homerun from wide receiver Hal Smith, taking a 9-7 lead. The Yankees tied for the ninth, but the Pirates won the World Series thanks to Mazeroski’s home run late in the inning against Ralph Terry.

In Game 4, at Yankee Stadium, Virdon had led by two points and made a bouncy drive-by grab by the Yankees Bob Cerv, crashing into the wall of the center-right bleacher. The Pirates won 3-2, tying the Series.

Virdon won a Gold Glove award for his roster in 1962.

He stayed with the Pirates until 1965, coached for the Mets in the minors, then returned to Pittsburgh as a player-coach in 1968, his final season of play. He became manager of the Pirates in 1972, bringing them to the National League title East, but was sacked at the end of the following season.

In 1974, Virdon was handling the Yankees but not as anyone’s first choice. The Yankees initially hired Dick williams, who had left the Oakland A organization after taking the team to a second straight World Series championship in 1973. Williams had been irritated by the owner of the A. Charlie finleygets involved. On the Yankees he had to replace Ralph houk, who had left to become the manager of the Detroit Tigers.

But the American League canceled the deal when Finley and George steinbrenner, who was finishing his first season as primary owner of the Yankees, couldn’t agree on compensation for the A players, who still had Williams under contract. Steinbrenner instead signed a one-year contract with Virdon.

The Yankees hadn’t won a pennant since 1964, but with players like Bobby murcer, Thurman munson and Graig Nettles, Virdon kept them in the ’74 division race until the penultimate day of the season. He was named American League Coach of the Year by The Sporting News.

Virdon was given a new two-year contract after the 1974 season, at a time when Steinbrenner was under a two-year suspension for pleading guilty to federal crimes involving illegal contributions in President Richard M. Nixon’s campaign for re-election in 1972.

Tempestuous Steinbrenner bristled at what he felt was Virdon’s lack of fire as the Yankees stumbled through mid-summer 1975. Late July, though he wasn’t supposed to be involved in running the team, Steinbrenner went to the Yankees president’s apartment, Gabe Paul, and shouted, “Get rid of Virdon!” from “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion in Baseball” (2010), by Bill Madden. Virdon was fired and Billy Martin succeeded him in the first of his five terms as manager of the Yankees.

William Charles Virdon was born June 9, 1931 in Hazel Park, Michigan, to Charles and Bertha Virdon, and raised in West Plains, Missouri, after his parents returned to their native state. There her father ran a country store and her mother was a housewife. He was recruited by the Yankees from Drury College, now a university, in Springfield in 1950. When he had problems with his juvenile blows, his manager, Harry Craft, suggested he wear glasses. His punches improved, so he kept them.

Virdon was traded to the Cardinals organization in April 1954 as part of a deal bringing the future Hall of Fame outfielder Enos Slaughter to the Yankees. Virdon beat 0.281 in winning Rookie of the Year in 1955, but the Cards sent him to the Pirates in May 1956 when he collapsed at home plate. He continued to hit .319 this season and had a career batting average 0.267 for 12 seasons in the major leagues.

After leading the Pirates and Yankees, Virdon took the 1980 Houston Astros to an NL West title, the first in their history. He then directed the Montreal Expos.

After his years as a manager, Virdon coached for the Astros and Pirates.

He is survived by his wife, Shirley; his daughters Debbie Virdon Lutes, Linda Virdon Holmes and Lisa Virdon Brown; seven grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

In his memoir “Uppity” (2011), former Yankees broadcaster Bill White gave Virdon credit for leading the Yankees to second in 1974, but characterized him as “a quiet guy. and aloof which was not particularly popular with gamers. “

On Opening Day 1975, Steinbrenner ordered Virdon to play Yankee players to a recording Steinbrenner made to inspire them. By the end of that season, Virdon had long been fired, and the volatile Billy Martin was presumably providing the necessary fire. This Yankee team finished in third place.

Jordan allen contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Bill Virdon, silent manager of four MLB teams, dies at 90
Bill Virdon, silent manager of four MLB teams, dies at 90
Newsrust - US Top News
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