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Former Pirates Player and Manager Bill Virdon Dies at 90

November 23rd, 2021 by WCBC Radio

A World Series-winner as a player, a highly successful manager and coach after retiring and a beloved member of the Pirates organization, Bill Virdon has passed away, the team confirmed with a statement Tuesday afternoon. He was 90 years old.

Although Virdon starred on that 1960 championship team, using his speed to patrol spacious center field at Forbes Field and routinely making fast and accurate throws with his arm, Virdon’s legacy included so much more.

Virdon played for a couple different teams during his playing career, starting with breaking into MLB with the Cardinals in 1955, when he hit .281 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs to win the National League Rookie of the Year.

Blocked by Mickey Mantle with the Yankees, Virdon was traded to the Cardinals before the 1954 season. They actually moved Stan Musial from center field to rely on the rookie.

Following a slump to start the next season, Virdon was traded for Bobby Del Greco and Dick Littlefield. Virdon caught fire over the final 133 games with the Pirates, hitting .334 and challenging Hank Aaron for the batting title.

That 1960 season was not Virdon’s best from a statistical standpoint, but he did hit a memorable ground ball in Game 7 of the World Series — one that hit shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat, which allowed Virdon to reach base and start a three-run rally, tying the game at 7.

Virdon ranks sixth all-time in Pirates history in games played as an outfielder with 1,376. He had 1,596 hits, 237 doubles, 91 home runs and 502 RBIs in 1,583 games, later winning a Gold Glove with St. Louis in 1962.

Managing was always one of Virdon’s loves, and it’s why he retired after the 1965 season. Virdon worked his way through the minors on the coaching side and was an assistant coach for the Pirates from 1968-71, eventually succeeding manager Danny Murtaugh to start the 1972 season and another World Series defense. The Pirates won 96 games and the NL East that year and made it three outs from the World Series.

However, Virdon was managing when Bob Moose’s wild pitch enabled George Foster to score in a Game 5 loss at Cincinnati. Murtaugh replaced Virdon the following year, and Virdon would go on manage the Yankees in 1974-75; the Astros from 1975-1982; and the Expos in 1983-84.

Virdon had a career record as a manager of 995-921 (.519) during all or parts of 13 seasons and later enjoyed working as an assistant/bench coach, outfield coach and spring training instructor.