William Charles Virdon
>> Visit the Bill Virdon biography on Baseball Almanac for complete statistics.Manager's Record
One of the most famous plays of Bill Virdon's career probably will never be remembered for the way he hit it. Instead, it remains legendary because of what it hit. With his Pittsburgh Pirates facing elimination in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, Virdon sparked a comeback when his hit bounced off the throat of Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek.
Compared to some others on today's Pittsburgh Pirates coaching staff (Dave Parker in particular), Bill Virdon wouldn't be considered overpowering - He never was overpowering as a hitter. Yet, he can relate to young players hoping to get a chance to play and he can appreciate defensive skill.
He is now assisting with a young team, a team that isn't expected to go very far in the National League. Many of the Pirates' players are just looking for the chance to show what they can do on the field. Virdon was looking for a similar chance early in his career and it came thanks to two trades.
He was originally signed by the New York Yankees, but got the chance to play with another franchise when the St. Louis Cardinals were looking to trade future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter to give playing time to Wally Moon. Virdon, Mel Wright and Emil Tellinger were sent to the Cardinals in 1954 for Slaughter. The next year, Virdon had the chance to play and his first here was impressive -- he was named National League Rookie of the hitting .281 with 17 home runs and 68 RBI.
In 1956, he was expected to keep up the pace and jump out to a quick start. When he hit just .211 in the first 24 games, St. Louis GM Frank Lane traded Virdon to the Pirates for Bobby Del Greco and Dick Littlefield. Del Greco hit .215 with the Cardinals while Virdon hit .344 over the rest of the season for the Pirates. Between St. Louis and Pittsburgh, Virdon had 10 home runs -- he would never have double-digits in home runs again in his career.
While he was an average player at the plate, Virdon excelled defensively. He finished his career with a .982 fielding percentage and he made 73 errors in his entire career. In 1962, he received a Gold Glove for his defensive play.
Maz hit the home run to win the 1960 World Series and the Yankees' Bobby Richardson was named MVP, but Virdon made key contributions to keep the Pirates hopes alive. He is credited with two amazing catches that robbed Yogi Berra of a hit in Game 1 and Bob Cerv of one in Game 4.
Virdon's playing career ended with a .267 career batting average, 91 home runs and 502 RBI in 1,583 games.
After his career, Virdon was a coach for the Pirates under manager Danny Murtaugh in 1972. In Virdon's first year, the Pirates won the division championship, but lost to the Reds in the final inning of Game 5 of the NLCS.
In 1973, Virdon had confrontations with players Dock Ellis and Richie Hebner and eventually lost his job. In 1974, after Dick Williams was unable to become manager of the Yankees, Virdon was offered the job. His team finished second and Virdon garnered Sporting News Manager of the Year honors. The honeymoon didn't last long in New York though. Virdon was replaced by Billy Martin in August 1975.
Virdon bounced back and was hired two weeks later by Houston where he managed for six seasons. His team made the playoffs in 1980 leading to more honors for Virdon. His Astros lost in the 10th inning of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series to the Reds. Virdon was fired in August 1982 after putting together a 544-522 record with Houston.
He was hired by Montreal later that year and led the Expos through 1984. As a manager, Virdon compiled a lifetime 955-921 (.519).
When Lloyd McClendon was named manager of the Pirates in 2001, his first choice for bench coach was Virdon. As he now enters his 70s, Virdon is back with the Pirates, the team where he had the chance to shine.
Note: Bio was written in 2001